Moving to Hornby five and a half months ago we knew to expect a couple things: there would be farming and it would be in a beautiful slice of paradise on the west coast. Beyond that, your guess was as good as mine. As it turned out farming has only accounted for a small part of the education we’ve received. One of the biggest lessons I have experienced falls more on the philosophical side, being that the world is full of unique ideas and opinions. This is nothing groundbreaking obviously, any 10-year-old could tell you the same, but it is definitely present on Hornby Island, where counter culture abounds. Before the move I was aware of the stereotypes of the west coast as a freethinking, liberal hippie haven, but the stereotypes (as with most) do an injustice to what is truly going on out here.
Changes in perspective are often difficult to explain and only relevant if you have experienced it for yourself, but I will make an attempt. The closest thing I could compare it to is traveling to a different culture, which for me often induces reflection about life back home. I have found that this reflection leads to a shift in perspective (sometimes lasting, sometimes not), becoming more inclusive and less steadfast in my convictions. Since arriving on Hornby, we have needed to expand our perspectives to include not only new opinions of our own, but more importantly that other opinions deserve equal respect. Much like traveling abroad, if we were to hold onto our convictions from home like a badge or identity, we would not have a hope of integration or simpler yet, a conversation based on respect. Can you relate?
I’m pretty into this podcast lately called Zen Habits Favorites, which is a narration of the blog Zen Habits, which I have followed for a while. The blog is curate by Leo Babauta and focuses on habits: breaking the bad, encouraging the good. While listening recently I was exposed to Leo’s concept called Expanding the Envelope, which is broadening your perspectives through sympathy. Putting yourself in others shoes. Again, nothing groundbreaking here, but much like other topics on his blog I found the message right when I needed to hear it. Furthermore, I find that in the absence of simple messages and reminders, it can be difficult to abstain from egocentric thought. Moving away from somewhere known (Alberta) to somewhere foreign (Hornby Island) has allowed me to deepen my understand of others; realizing that we are all unique in our history and understanding of the world. Unique perspectives are on grand display here on Hornby and are largely part of the appeal, apart from the stunning scenery, which has been discussed in detail.
Another ZenHabits post I quite enjoy listening to, entitled the Elements of Living Lightly, discusses judgment. Judgment is something I struggle with as well, especially with regards to differences in perspective. As with most things, this remains a work in progress. To quote:
…Judgments stop us from understanding, and can ruin our happiness. When we judge, we don’t seek to understand — we’ve already come to a conclusion. If we stop judging, we allow ourselves to try to understand, and then we can take a much smarter course of action, because we’re better informed by our understanding.
Another recent experience had me contemplating how I respond to differing opinions. We were fortunate to attend a presentation by renowned, and somewhat controversial, Dr. Gabor Mate. Dr. Mate apparently has a property on Hornby and put on a presentation as part of a fundraiser for the Hornby Festival. The title of the talk, “Beyond the Medical Model: Illness and Health, Science and Psychedelics” provides some context to the ‘somewhat controversial’ caveat used earlier. I’ll spare you the details of the talk, as his message can be gleaned by watching this TED talk or this Nature of Things episode (shout out to my sister, Kelsey, for being up on Gabor for years now!). I would, however, like to share one of Dr. Mate’s key messages, which was that our ideologies are often, if not always, based on untrue assumptions. He put it in the context of western medicine being an ideology that takes pride in being science-based, but holds unproven assumptions about the human condition. Untrue assumption 1. You can separate the human body and mind, and 2. Humans are separate from their environments. Again, I was challenged to consider my own conscious, subconscious or unconscious assumptions and how they influence my interactions with others, especially when conflicting views are presented.
I’m absolutely not saying that I have reached a state of enlightenment and now see the world as it is. There are still many filters I see through, but by moving away from the known and into the unknown it has helped expand my perspectives to include the fact that I am not an expert or authority and therefore will continue to listen and aim to reserve judgment.
As Ben Harper wrote:
my choice is what I choose to do
and if I’m causing no harm
it shouldn’t bother you
your choice is who you choose to be
and if your causin’ no harm
then you’re alright with me