The traveler, with an eye toward reaching the distant village, is prepared for a considerable walk, paddle, or swim. The painted turtle, living among the reeds, is already home. It’s all about perspective or “point of view.”
The inhabitants of this small village, neighbors, friends, relatives, likely share similar perspectives on many issues. Yet, even among those individuals closest to one another, there often exist tiny shifts in perspective that may be surprising, amusing or disturbing.
We silently consider, perhaps with curiosity or distress, perspectives different from our own from those who seem most unlike ourselves. People from different countries and cultures, those fleeing war torn lands, those with chronic food and housing insecurities could hardly be expected to share similar view points with those of us who do not experience such conditions of life.
We are confronted with a far different challenge when a point of view, so unlike our own, is expressed by someone who seems rather like us. Our initial reactions may be surprise, confusion and potentially fear and anger especially if one of our cherished beliefs is being called into question.
Looking deeply, we ask,
“Where is the common ground we share and how is it to be reached and rediscovered?”
For philosophy professor Paul Woodruff, the common ground we seek is reverence, what he calls the forgotten virtue. Woodruff suggests that reverence is, “the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect and shame when these are the right feelings to have.” Withholding reverence from perspectives that themselves are irreverent, such as those that diminish the life force within which we exist, is a courageous response. This is true regardless of the power, wealth or influence of those supporting such perspectives.
It is the small voice within that helps us respond authentically to these challenging perspectives. That voice also reminds us of the vast, mysterious perspective beyond measure, the “hidden wholeness” in Merton’s view, that our human points of view only partially reveal.
Woodruff, Paul (2001). Reverence: renewing a forgotten virtue. Oxford University Press.