During Lent I’ll be trying to expand my empathy circuits by looking through the eyes of those with very different viewpoints to my own. I am not sure yet how this will affect my accompanying photography, it might be a little less spontaneous for this season. This remains part of our year-long topic of contemplative sight. Understanding others and widening our outlook is such as important part of spiritual seeing that I wanted to take longer over it than our other subjects.
Like one of my favourite literary characters, Granny Weatherwax (from Pratchett’s Discworld series) we are going to do a little borrowing. Granny puts her mind in another creature’s, and goes wandering in the world, leaving her body looking comatose on the eiderdown. Those who have popped round for a bottle of pig ointment have sometimes mistaken her “elsewhere”-ness for having passed over, and so she took to wearing the above sign to avoid further misunderstandings. I want to show how it is possible to take a short “borrow” of someone else’s mind set in order to develop compassion and understanding.
A word of warning to myself and my readers, though. We must be aware that in doing this, we are bringing our own prejudices with us. We are never going to be able to cast our own lens out, it will remain present. But we can nevertheless explore unknown territory through the eyes of another, even if the vista is still tainted by our own viewpoints. It’s a bit like trying to understand why someone else’s favourite dessert is Baked Alaska, when our taste buds are longing for apple pie; it does take a force of will and a resignation that we aren’t going to get it completely. To try is a worthwhile goal and will teach us a little something, I hope.
text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017