The Power of Perspective

P hotograph: Aaron Tilley for the Guardian   Is this glass half full or half empty?

Photograph: Aaron Tilley for the Guardian

Is this glass half full or half empty?

How powerful of an influence can perspective be on the human mind?

Imagine the following story. Two brothers, of nearly the same age, are playing together one Sunday afternoon when a bright flash suddenly blinds them and a thunderous voice is heard. At first they are terrified and shocked by what is happening, but the voice quickly identifies himself as God and they both calm down and listen. God tells both brothers that he has a very important message for them, and to listen closely to what he is about to say. He tells the brothers that both of them have the ability to accomplish great things in life, however, one of them will only live to the age of thirty five while the other will live to the age of ninety five. Both brothers sit for a moment taking in the news. He then explains that he will take each one aside in private to let them know who will live to thirty five the other ninety five. Once God finishes he brings them together again explaining that what he told each them was private, and that they can never share that information with each other. Before he leaves he asks them that if they have any questions he will answer them with complete honesty. The brothers think for a moment, and decide neither one had anything to ask. God nods his head, says his goodbyes, and tells them that he is looking forward to seeing what each of them will accomplish in life. 

Sun rise or the sun set?

Sun rise or the sun set?

Now what the brothers don't know is that God told both of them that they will live to the age of ninety five, and cautions both of them not to wait on their future plans.   

So here we have it: Two brothers receive the same message from God, but this is where the similarities differ in this story. There are two reactions that can occur here: one being to hurry up and not wait on life, and the second approach is that there is plenty of time left. The younger of the two brothers is deeply moved and inspired into action. He realizes how finite life is, starts working on his goals, and goes on to be a very successful doctor. While this is happening the older brother goes on living normal life without any sense of urgency. He sees the future as a very far off event, and figures that he will get around to accomplishing his professional goals. 

Unfortunately the older brothers point of view is the one many people take when it comes to their lives. We are masters of procrastination, and pushing our ambitions and goals further and further back. We are also great at making excuses of how I wanted to do this or that, I was planning on starting a business, but I couldn't when I had my children, etc, etc, etc... Most people, if there lucky, end up only having several regrets in life. Many people say "if I could do it all over again I would have done this or done that..." 

So as the above story states there are two brothers with the same message, but two totally different responses to the situation. Though this example may be improbable it serves as a warning and a metaphor. Our lives are finite and some of us are blessed with long lives, and some of us unfortunately have a very limited time here on Earth. Don't ever wait on the right time, the perfect situation, or the stars to align. Because chances are that life will always throw curve balls, and situations will always continually change.   

As for the two brothers, well things didn't quite work out well for the older brother. On his thirty fifth birthday he dies of heart attack during his giant birthday party. His younger brother, who was a doctor, could have saved his life if he was there, but they had gotten into a fight earlier that morning about that day God came down to them. The younger brother wasn't happy with how the older brother was living his life, and that he didn't approve of him not taking the message from God seriously.

When the older brother gets to Heaven he is greeted by God at the pearly white gates. "God what happened? You told me that I was going to live to ninety five. Now I'm here dead on my thirty fifth birthday! I didn't get a chance to accomplish everything that I wanted to in life. You lied to me!" 

God takes in what he has to say for a moment and simply asks, "It's not my fault that you waited so long to start living your life. I had I high hopes for you, and all of the things you could have accomplished." God pauses for a moment. "Plus this all could have been cleared up many years ago on that day I came down to the both of you."

The brother looks confused for a moment. "What do you mean?"

God laughed softly and said, "I asked you if you had any questions, and nobody asked me anything."

"I didn't know you were being serious. I thought that everything was pretty straight forward." The brother asked. "What should I have asked?"

God's face became serious and stern, he leaned in close, and said, "Well it's simple, why didn't you ask me if I was joking?"

So the moral of this story is that perspective is a powerful force, don't procrastinate on your goals, and if God asks talks to you ask him if he is being serious.

- Robby Silk