Friday, July 08, 2005

A Matter of Perspective

In "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," Douglas Adams' second book in the five-part "Hitchhiker's Trilogy," Zaphod Beeblebrox is intended to be tortured (or worse!) by being thrown into the "Total Perspective Vortex." The intention is that, for one moment, the victim is to be given "just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little marker, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says 'You are here.'" Apparently, when the Vortex was created, the very first person to experience it had her brain "completely annihilated," which "proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

Almost needless to say, Zaphod managed to survive the Vortex unharmed (it turns out that at the time he's put into the Vortex, he's actually in an artificial universe created especially for him. So when he sees his place within that universe, all it does is further inflate his already huge ego), but the rest of us must continue to struggle with what it means to have perspective on the everyday events of life. Life that often trudges on with no apparent concern for whether or not we get trampled underneath it. Do we fight back? Can we fight back? Often, the forces that threaten to make us feel insignificant are nebulous and difficult to identify. Some people are apparently able to "take life by the horns" and have complete control over most every situation in which they find themselves. But even if this is true (and I would suggest that more often than not it is simply an illusion), most of us do not have that kind of control over our own lives, much less the situations in which we find ourselves.

None of which is to say that we should just "let things happen" or "accept" what happens to us blindly. We do have some measure of control, if not over what happens to us, then certainly over how we respond to these situations.

But we certainly aren't expected to go through life's struggles alone. If you're going through a rough time right now, I'd encourage you to confide in a friend or loved one. If you know someone who's going through such a time, then I'd similarly encourage you to be there for that person. Not to give advice (which seldom does what it's intended to), or to "fix" whatever problem is going on (which may not be possible), but just to make sure that life's struggles aren't fought in isolation. I recommend prayer, as well. You just might be able to provide the "perspective" that person needs to make it through the situation.

(But PLEASE don't give them "TOTAL" perspective! I don't think any of us could take it!)

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