Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Snakes and Ladders

If you click on Edit --> Transform on Adobe Photoshop, there's a tool called Perspective. It allows you to take an object and change its size from any side, relative to the opposite side. In effect, you change the viewer's perspective of how big the object is, when in fact it is the same thing.

Perspective is a funny thing like that. I think it's easy when you are feeling particularly strongly about something (upset, disappointed, jealous, stressed) to over-dramatize the significance, and work yourself into a circuitous mess. I mean, I don't wish to play down the importance of these things in our lives when they do occur, right at that moment. In fact, these obstacles we face usually seem kind of big. And annoying. And of course we'd rather they not exist. But I guess where I'm going with this post is Tough Shit, right? The poor kid in Cambodia who lost his legs from a land mine probably didn't want to lose his legs either. And the orphan in Africa who lost both her parents to genocide would've rather kept her parents. So I guess compared to these guys, our day-to-day speed bumps pale in comparison.

In the end we're all human beings, right, with our big picture ambitions as well as small-time goals. We fight little battles each day, sometimes with ourselves and once in a while we actually win. When things don't go our way, we throw our silent tantrums of the mind whilst the frontal lobe shuts mental padlocks on the exterior. We smile, cover a grimace, hold our breath and hope not for the best, but that we get what we want. They say that babies spend the first few years of life thinking that they are the centre of the universe, before they grow up and shed this egotistical mentality. But maybe we don't grow out of this 'I want what I want' attitude as we grow up, and simply get better at getting what we want without making it obvious anymore. More like a negotiation. Give and take.

But I digress. I think the point is that no matter how upset/disappointed/jealous/stressed we are about something, there's always worse. In fact a lot worse. And like how tragedy and misery come hand in hand, perspective should be coupled with the word adaptation. Because the moment we take a step back from the situation and gain some well needed perspective, we start to see ways in which we can adapt to the cards we've been dealt. Certainly, whilst I'm a believer of planning and organization, life really does come down to a series of mini triumphs and small setbacks that resembles, rather fittingly, a game of Snakes and Ladders. We play that game as a kid because we see the whole board: the start, the goal, the ladders as well as the snakes, and not just the snake swallowing our token when we reach square 99.

Having spent some time with the trauma department not so long ago, I've come across several shocking cases that demonstrate the extremes of what it means to be called human. Senseless knife attacks, fleeing the scene and leaving passengers to die, gun shot victims, people with spinal cord transections (ie. will not walk for life). It's all pretty sobering stuff that I try to carry with me no matter where I am or who I'm with. And whilst my everyday mini-obstacles still annoy me the way a stray eyelash does when caught beneath an eyelid, suddenly they don't seem so big or important anymore. I don't get exactly what I want, but I'm still alive. I can still walk, and see, and hear, and do whatever else it is that I wish to pursue.

And that's something to be grateful for.

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