As MALS Director Monica Weis explores Hungary for her Fulbright teaching assignment abroad, I have been following her experiences eagerly on her blog and through Facebook. In her "Message from the Director" for this newsletter, Monica writes: "The whole point of liberal studies is to broaden one's horizons, to appreciate and experience the beauty and values of different cultures, to learn to look at the world through another's eyes."
Perspective is an important thing, and something that should be exercised like a muscle lest it grow weak with disuse. Perspective is more than just reading about someone else's experiences, and it is even more than trying to imagine what we would do in someone else's situation—perspective is about trying to understand what we would do in their situation given their same set of experiences and circumstances.
That is quite a tall order, indeed.
Perspective requires stepping out of ourselves, and away from our expectations. Of course it is not possible to completely understand something from the perspective of another person, but that's not the point of the exercise; the point of the exercise is, of course, the exercise itself. When you lift weights, over time your muscles become bigger and stronger, but that's just the endpoint. While you were lifting the weight you were pushing your limits and breaking down tissue, and in turn your body worked to rebuild that tissue into something stronger. When we exercise our sense of perspective—while we certainly hope to gain some greater understanding—it's the process of breaking down, and the resulting growth, that counts.
After all, once in a while we manage to stumble and fumble our way into a greater understanding, but doesn't it feel better when we really work for it?
The MALS Fall 2011 newsletter is about how exercising perspective results in personal growth. Sometimes this an exciting process, sometimes it is an uncomfortable one, but if you stay focused (and hydrated!) you grow stronger in your abilities to appreciate, experience, and understand the world around you.
MALS graduate, December 2006