Perspective is in the eye of the beholder

by Edward Henkler on June 11, 2013

A previous post reflected on Dale Carnegie’s advice to consistently seek to understand the other person’s perspective.  I just read a Smithsonian article, “Welcome to the Dark Side”, which is a potent reminder that different people can view the same thing very differently.  Lisa Randall is a highly respected cosmologist and the first female theoretical physicist tenured at Harvard.  She was recently interviewed by Ron Rosenbaum, who lamented the belief that the discovery of dark matter and dark energy suggests we are ignorant of 96% of the universe.  I would admit that I had a similar reaction.

Welcome to the Dark Side (Lisa Randall, cosmologist)

Lisa sees it very differently.  She thinks it’s astounding that we have discovered as much as we have, sitting on one rather average planet, in a somewhat isolated corner of the universe.  She likens it to living in the US and attempting to divine what plant life would be like in Africa.  She also mentioned that some aspects of the universe may be so different from our world that they are virtually unknowable.  We tend to think that all life should look like us then some intrepid explorer discovers life by steam vents miles below the ocean, living under unimaginable pressures and with absolutely no sunlight.  Even within the confines of our own planet, we can amazed by the diversity of life.

What’s the bottom line?  4% is an utter failure for one person and an amazing success for another.  If we recognized the potential for this level of disparity in every conversation, we might invest much more effort in listening and confirming understanding.

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