Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

[Return to MetaPerspective]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the United States we're celebrating Thanksgiving today. We've taken a proprietary hold on this holiday, incorporating it into our national myth and folklore, by portraying it as a unique event involving Pilgrims and Indians that commemorates the founding of the country.

In reality, though, harvest celebrations are as old as agriculture itself. Throughout time cultures have offered thanks to their deities for the fruits of autumn. The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, has become the ubiquitous symbol of these celebrations. Although now we most often see the cornucopia portrayed as a woven basket holding produce, the original cornucopia, as the word's Latin root tells us, included an animal's--probably a bull's or a ram's--horn.
One autumn an Asian man participated in a life story writing workshop I was presenting. He is now an American citizen, and his children were born here in the U. S., but he wanted to write about his childhood experiences so his children would know about their Asian heritage. When he read his narration of how the residents of the village presented offerings of rice to the gods and visited relatives on a day in autumn, the other workshop participants commented that this sounded a lot like our American Thanksgiving.

It would have been more accurate to say that our Thanksgiving sounds a lot like the ancient Asian tradition of giving thanks. We don't have a monopoly on autumnal thanksgiving, even if we do spell it with a capital letter and get a paid day off from work. Sharing life stories with people from another culture can broaden our perspective on our place in the world and in history.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown

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