Jonathan asked about the qualities I admire in people. Did my early role models live up to them? Looking my friend in the eyes, I answered that it was a complicated question and to give me a few moments to shift my thinking back to that of an adolescent male, growing up in the 1960s. Jonathan smiled and said that he was interested in that particular perspective.
After a few minutes, I admitted some of my role models were heroic people like astronauts Gus Grissom, John Glenn, and President John F. Kennedy. There were pop culture people I admired for other reasons. I liked John Lennon for his clear-headed frankness, and George Harrison for his open-minded spirituality. Carol Burnett for her wide ranging talent and humor. There was a special place in my heart for newscaster Walter Cronkite because he represented what objectivity means.
In all of these famous people there was a balance between being a regular human and someone with amazing self-confidence. There was a sense of tempered restlessness and energy. There was some level of healthy skepticism. They all seemed to possess some sort of real world perspective. Their outlooks on life and the way the world works were all different in important ways. They showed me that there is no such thing as any one particular unifying objective way of understanding life.
Our individual perspectives are our limitations. If we can understand other people’s points of view, we widen and enrich our mental panorama. Jonathan replied that it’s important to get a clearer view of the world by looking at life from different angles.
I then mentioned that I had to learn that my role models were only human. Among their strengths and admirable qualities, they also had mortal weaknesses and shortcomings. It was by remembering they were all just human beings, that I was able to bring them down from the pedestals I had placed them on. Doing so allowed me to admire them even more.
My young friend said he can relate to what I told him. He likes to observe people and how they interact with each other. Jonathan says he likes to mentally turn things around and upside down to see if he can understand different ways to view life. This is why he asks a lot of probing questions to his family and friends. People have their own limited opinions about big problems and personal problems. Most of us have not had a very diverse life. We’re only able to see life from our limited practical and spiritual points of view.
I mentioned to Jonathan the video I saw recently from astronaut Jack Fischer, who hosted a quick, thumbnail tour of the International Space Station. It turns out that most of the flight crew spends a great deal of their off time looking at the Earth below as the ISS speeds through its orbit. It must be a profound experience to watch our home planet from such a perspective. This is something the vast majority of us can only imagine. To actually view the Earth from the ISS is an extremely special privilege. I would love to visit one of these astronauts face to face and hear about their revelations.
Jonathan wished aloud that he thinks more people need to take a deep breath, and look at the world from an entirely different point of view. He knows most people simply will not do that. It’s a shame because they don’t know what they’re missing.
I smiled at my friend and said that he somewhat defined one of my favorite mental states–a paradigm shift.
Jonathan asked me to elaborate.
Basically, a paradigm shift is what happens to our perspective or point of view when our habitual way of seeing or doing something is changed into a different or new way of seeing or doing something. Some people call paradigm shifts, “aha moments”.
My friend nodded and simply said, “Got it”.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Those who see the cosmic perspective as a depressing outlook, they really need to reassess how they think about the world. Because when I look up in the Universe, I know I’m small, but I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the Universe and the Universe is connected to me.”