Context with "Bright Wish"
I have been working hard this past month. Besides teaching, I am volunteering at a charity that has taken a good chunk of my time and energy while satisfying a deep rooted need to help with the pandemic. That is why I needed to take a break for few days. As Robert Greenleaf asserts in his "The Servant as Leader", book, one must be aware of one's optimum and take breaks as needed.
So, I just did that and here I am writing this note on the flight back home from my trip to Washington D.C. metro area. I am not sure what is my connection to the tri-state area, but I have gone back and forth more than 25 times in this lifetime. I lived there for few months back in the early nineties and for eight years after marriage and gave life to my kids there and grew roots. I wonder if one can have more than one root. I feel I do…I feel at home in several places. Since returning to the west coast, any chance I find, I go back for a visit the DC metro area. Friends like the Delta lady (read an earlier note about her), my cousin Butterfly, (I wrote about her too in an earlier note) my pregnancy lamas class friend, my kids elementary school mom group, my coworkers from the corporate world work, my newly found elementary school friend "Bright Wish", and many others are some of the reason to take this 4–5-hour flight. However, the main reason for this trip was to surprise the Delta Lady for her birthday. I think it was a successful trip all together.
My connection to the area also stems from my love for trees. The tall, magnificent trees that remind me of the movie Pocahontas. Every time, I drive on the winding roads like the George Washington Parkway, surrounded by mind-blowing, multi color trees; I imagine the settlers, the natives, and their encounters. I think of all the lush lands, and how the indigenous folks lived on them without ravishing them. I imagine the bloodshed during battles early on and even during the civil war. I catch myself reliving all those scenes and realizing how far we have come as humans.
Of course, the cynics would say, humanity has regressed. Especially after last week’s verdict of a young man killing two protestors in Wisconsin and being acquitted. But I think they should read the article I read two years ago on Washington Post. The writer, Fareed Zakaria, provides some hopeful statistics. For instance, he claims that: Since 1990, more than 1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty. Globally, poverty rate, has gone down from 36 percent to 10 percent, the lowest in recorded history. He adds: “The child mortality rate is down 58 percent since 1990”. He further asserts that in the 80s, two-thirds of the globe lived under state socialism, repression, and isolation; however, there have been colossal improvements in access and opportunity for large segments of the population that were locked out and pushed down (i.e. women, people of color, and LGBT). Though much remains to be done, he manages to substantiate his claim of striking progress with data. (You can read the entire article in this link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-have-a-bleak-view-of-modern-life-but-the-world-is-making-real-progress/2019/01/31/6ee30432-25a8-11e9-ad53-824486280311_story.html )
Let’s continue discussing my trip to the capital. The town where duality is at its peak. Nature, pure and simple with all its beauty enmeshed in a city highly charged with politics and all the illusion it carries. It is so easy to be pulled into this illusionary trap. Bi-partisanship, disagreements, arguments, contempt, anger, backstabbing are all in one end. Then you have breath taking paths in forest-like parks, beautiful waterfalls, Potomac River, beautiful monuments, museums filled with charmed artifacts and remarkable artwork. Perhaps, the universe wants to balance itself out in this area.
The title of this note, has to do with the photo I have attached below. My dear elementary school friend whose name translates to “Bright Wish” took me to a place called Hillwood Estate in Chevy Chase near D.C. Walking with her in the museum which was the home of Marjorie Post (1887-1973), the heir of General Foods Corp.; was curious and baffling for me. So much material wealth, so many fancy dishes, clothe, furniture and paintings. One cannot fathom, how one person, can own this much, and Why? What can you do with all this wealth? She was apparently an engaged citizen who invited many politicians to her estate; and a generous philanthropist.
Bright Wish and I were “oohing”, “ahhing” and enjoying every aspect of the mansion we detected. The unique sensations I experienced walking through this mansion was more of confusion than anything else. For instance, the idea of eating meals on plates that cost thousands of dollars is so foreign to me. Or how the owner as an engaged citizen, could live guiltfree, while being fully aware of the poverty and hunger of those near or far. I started thinking, what would I do if I had this much wealth? Would I become attached to the wealth? Would I give it away? Would I become scrooge like? As I was drowning in these thoughts and keeping up with my conversation with “Bright Wish”; we walked out from the main door to start our garden tour after lunch. That was when I spotted the view depicted in the photo below. I got the answer to my question: Context…
Looking closely at the photo, you see a view behind the view. From where I stood, I see a round hole in a brick wall, framing a window and a tree. If I had gone closer, and took the photo through the round brick hole, I probably would see an entirely different setting. Perhaps a guesthouse and may be a garden was there. I had a choice to look from where I was, or go closer to see the bigger picture; I could have moved right to see the left area in the hole or vice versa. I could have even stop looking and focused on something else altogether.
So, our vantage point creates our reality!
Often, we are placed in positions where we have limited view of what is. Some of us are happy with where we stand and have no curiosity on what could be. We are comfortable with the limited view. Some of us even use our imagination to paint what is. Some of us are more curious and are not satisfied with a glimpse. We must see more. And some of us just move around to understand what could be. Some of us have full blinders on for some views, and take them off for other views. Some of put on shades to not see too much, some take off our shades to see more.
Now, why context was the answer to my confusion? Because as I was going around the mansion and judging the owner for being filthy rich and having no empathy for her luck or curse...I was thinking how someone can live like that, the brick wall helped me realize, I did not have the context of her full life. I was looking at her life from that hole in the wall. I was like a caterpillar trying to understand flight in a cocoon. Impossible!
The rest of the tour of this estate was magical…The walk in the gardens, holding “Bright wish’s” arm, walking on thick layers of fallen leaves and enjoying the noise it made, the rays of sun beaming through the tall gorgeous trees, the Zen garden with mini waterfalls, walking to the rose garden that had no roses, visiting the owner’s dog cemetery and all the impressive parts of this estate, was quite therapeutic for me after an intense emotional uprise walking through the mansion.
What a great reminder: My vantage point drives my perception and understanding of any construct. It’s all about context folks, move your vantage point and all will be clear. If it does not become clear, know that you still have room to wiggle. Just like the article I shared above, you can choose to look at humanity through a brick hole, or expand your view by going closer and seeing how far we have come.
As always grateful, especially to my dear friend Bright Wish!