Monday, March 19, 2012

A Very Simple Lens

“This issue should be viewed through the very simple lens of a crime having been committed.”

This sentence was uttered by a lawyer at a conference I attended this past weekend. The context is not important, and this blog is not the place to discuss the particular issues associated with the context. But it is absolutely a place to talk about the phrase, “a very simple lens.”

If I have learned anything by studying the law and yoga together, it is that the only simple statement I can make is that there is no simple lens of anything. There is no simple way to see the issues we face every single day as lawyers, nor as people generally. And our interconnected world is making this evident on levels and in situations we have never before experienced.

As I have mentioned before, there is rarely, if ever, one truth. We all see the world through our own concepts of our subjective truths. Most days I wish there were a single, simple truth that we could view through a single, simple lens. Life would be easier. This is why we hold our communities of like-minded individuals close. We preach to our own choir, and we forward emails with which we agree and delete those with which we disagree. I do it as well sometimes. Often it is with a pang of regret, but I tell myself it is because I do not have enough time for those emails. I will talk to people with whom I disagree, but I do not read their emails apparently. That is a line I have drawn many times.

But that is no longer an option. We can no longer live in the bubbles in which we would sometimes like to hide. We can see the entire world too easily. Lawyers meet yogis and realize they are not all chanting and meditating on a mountain (though the thought is nice at times). Yogis meet lawyers and realize they are not all money-hungry, corporation-protecting monsters. The CEO of Starbucks, a gigantic corporation, says we should take corporate money out of politics until the politicians get their acts together. The simplicity of putting people into a box becomes impossible the moment we open our eyes to all that people can be.

Unfortunately, the more difficult it becomes to actually see the world through a simple lens, the more some people attempt to do it. I actually think this is why we are witnessing such polarizing political worldviews today. We are becoming overwhelmed with the information overload, and we are not taking the time away from that overload and giving ourselves a break. No one, without serious practice, can be expected to jump into seeing issues from all sides. It simply, pardon the phrase, does not fit into the biological structure of fight-or-flight. It is evolutionarily safer to put people into a box of good or bad because then we know whether to allow them in or to kill them to save ourselves.

And it is also difficult and scary on an emotional and psychological level. What if the way I view the world is wrong? What if the way I see my truth is not real? The simple lens is so much easier, less time consuming, and immediately safer.

But in a more and more connected world, it is no longer a possibility. We no longer live in a world where everything must be viewed as a threat. Instead, we exist in a world where we must learn to see each other fully, or we will destroy ourselves. Albert Einstein once said, “I do not know with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but I know that World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones.”

We can no longer afford simple.

Lawyers are trained to cling to one truth or another, to find the simplest way to explain a situation, and this causes us, at times, to start to see the world in black and white terms. This does not mean all do; in fact, most lawyers I know see nuance and context more than simplicity. But the training is there, and the vestiges remain. Yogis, by contrast, are trained to open to new possibilities, whether in a physical asana or in a mental practice. Like lawyers, not all yogis do as they are trained, and many turn into fundamentalists convinced their way is the only way.

Do you notice yourself seeing the world through a simple lens? Are there particular areas you notice it more than others? What do you do about it when you notice it?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

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