I recall once, years ago, stepping onto a hospital elevator. Already aboard was a boy, perhaps 8 years old. To make conversation, in case he was uncomfortable, I asked, “is this elevator going up?”
He replied quickly that “This elevator only goes up.”
I didn’t argue with him, but, rather, enjoyed the perspective of an young boy soloing on an elevator.
Not long ago, Eliza and I were sitting together on an airplane from Dallas to St. Louis. As we took off, I realized that I am not so different from that 8 year old boy. I begin each flight with the thought that everyone on the plane is going to the same place I am. While this is true in a sense – we were all going to the St. Louis airport.
But some on the flight were continuing on to Newark. Some were traveling to St. Louis not to visit, but to return home.
I don’t think it is naive to begin with thinking that everyone on a plane is going the same place any more than to assume that an elevator that is going up is the “up elevator.” Naivete begins when this is the limit of one’s thinking.
One of the challenges we face in overcoming modernity is that of perspective. To a large extent, modernity leads us to believe that perspective is something that can be overcome.
It didn’t take me long to learn that the other man seated with us was from San Antonio, or that the person across the aisle was returning home from a visit to Dallas to see her grandchildren. With this knowledge, I gained more perspective than before. Had I taken the time to learn everyone’s story who was on the flight, I would have had a still broader perspective.
Sometimes modernity tempts us to make statements that are not dependent on perspective. It is helpful to gain the perspective of others, it is even more helpful to remember that we do not ever get beyond perspective.