Change positions to access the diversity

Landscape photography has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of how time, space and object, interconnect to create and define the reality that we observe.

If you go to the same place over and over again, and keep your focus on a specific object of interest, you will notice the impact of time. The belief that you know the place due to the familiarity, gets challenged when you consider how time changes the landscape. From a psychological standpoint, the person you are today, will not be exactly the same person you are tomorrow. While you may think or believe that you are the same, small (and maybe unnoticed) changes are unfolding as you evolve over time.

In a previous article, I mentioned that a beginner’s mind (that makes no assumptions when you encounter sameness or familiarity) gets cultivated when you are open to ‘seeing’ the ever changing dynamic of time.

So what do you experience if you keep time constant (which is not actually possible) and then change space or perspective of the object of interest? You get diversity.

At any given point in time, when a group of people are discussing a specific topic of contention, different perspectives (or positions) will emerge. Diversity is all about viewing the same object but from different positions in space. Space is context. Context defines meaning.

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There are daily patterns of events that recur at approximately the same time everyday. The A380 Airbus passing overhead at approximately the same time of day, everyday, is a case in point. It is a beautiful plane and has such presence when flying above.

To reveal the diversity of perspective of the plane in different contexts, I set up my camera in different places and waited for the plane to pass by.

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IMG_8464-2When considering any issue, try and shift your position or perspective so that you get a more ‘richer’ understanding of the complexity that surrounds the issue. However, this requires that you give up your usual perspective, which feels safe, comfortable and ingrained. That is why most people find it extremely difficult to let go of the familiar position that they take. Holding on to one’s perspective is driven by fear of change, or fear of losing oneself, or fear of being negatively influenced by another perspective. It is this fear that rigidifies and intensifies a stance or position, which then increases the possibility of conflict and blockage.

A dominant voice that prescribes to others closes down possibilities and increases feelings of resentment and anger. All perspectives need to be seen and considered in order to gain a deeper understanding of an issue. The challenge is to then integrate this diversity (incorporating all perspectives), so that more complex solutions can be formulated for a resolution to unfold. This is especially true when dealing with global concerns that do not have a ‘simple, one answer’ which is driven by a one size fits all, type of thinking.

Meeting the master

When we wake up in the morning, we never quite know how the day will unfold.

Yesterday was a special day – one that I will always remember.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

I woke up having the luxury of free time. There were no pressing demands to attend to. No deadlines to be met. 

I eased into the morning, having a leisurely breakfast. I intentionally extended the usual time that I take to enjoy my coffee. But as I did this, I became aware of some anxiety building within me. 

As the morning progressed, I became more and more agitated. A part of me felt that I was wasting the precious commodity of time, not being engaged in a meaningful activity.

There is a challenge when you have free time, since you have the responsibility of creating your own structure in which time can flow in a meaningful way.

In sharing this feeling with my wife, it became clear that there is an internal drive within us that wants to create, expand and produce. It is this energy that drives the evolutionary process as (a) new creations unfold through our endeavours, (b) new understandings emerge from our learning, and/or (c) new relationships are established as we share personal stories with others.

I sensed my agitation wanted me to move and act. Being still and doing ‘nothing’ was intensifying the feeling. After further introspection, I decided that the best way to deal with my agitation was to visit a place of creativity.

The Erwin Rehmann museum is about 30km from where I live. It is situated in the Swiss village of Laufenburg.

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The village of Laufenburg

Erwin Rehmann is a sculptor who works predominantly with iron and brass. He believes that one needs space around the art piece so that one can breathe and move around it while looking at the piece from many perspectives.

The museum is at his studio and home and still has the furnace where he melted the material to create his art.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

Many of his pieces are exhibited in the garden. As you walk around in the garden connecting with the art, you physically feel the space and freedom that Rehmann believes is necessary to appreciate the beauty and understand the meaning of the art form that he has created.

My wife mentioned to me that an old man, sitting in a living room that looked onto the garden, had waved to her as she passed by. We knew that Erwin Rehmann was alive and we wondered whether it was he, who had waved. I felt a sense of excitement as we pondered this possibility.

We made our way inside and ordered a water as we shared our thoughts about the beautiful sculptures.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

I looked up and saw an old man with a walker making his way towards us. On arrival, he introduced himself and listened intently as we made ourselves known to him. He ordered a coffee and sat with us. We had the most remarkable conversation with Erwin Rehmann. He is 97 years old, alert and coherent. He shared stories of his works and his experiences in his travels working with other artists from Paris, London and Tuscon.

He spoke freely and openly with us. There was no hesitation or censorship in his sharing. In all of what he was saying, there was a deep wisdom in his philosophical worldview. His statement of ‘Why do you search for a master when he in fact resides in you‘ continued to echo as I absorbed all that he was sharing with us.

After about 45 minutes he called the museum manager to our table and asked her to bring his book that detailed his works and entries into a personal journal. He autographed the book, addressing it: ‘For my new friends, Dellené and Kenneth’ and gave it to us as a gift.

He looked deeply into my eyes for the photograph. He did not seem interested to pose and look at the camera. As I looked into his eyes, I felt a strong bond that went far beyond the 45 minutes of us meeting. Age, experience, education and expertise had no relevance at that moment of time as we looked into each other’s eyes. We seemed to have been friends forever.

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Meeting a master artist

My wife and I left the museum in silence. We were in awe. How could one explain or interpret what had just unfolded? We had had a transformational encounter with a master artist. Our meeting Erwin Rehmann could never have been planned. It was a gift that we would never forget.

Photography helps to instill a beginner’s mind

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The normal response when you deal with a situation that is familiar to you, is to assume that you know everything about it. As you do this, you cut off and exclude so much information (and potentiality) that exists without you knowing it.

Many old relationships become rigid and stale because those in the relationship feel and believe that they know everything about one another. The belief that ‘I know exactly who you are, what you are thinking and how you are feeling’, inadvertently creates restrictions and limitations in the relationship as time unfolds. In the process, the relationship loses its generative ability to create new insights and understandings. Conversations grind to a holt and it seems that there is nothing new, different or more that can be said.

Going to the same place (location), time and time again, and to walk away with a different perspective has been the gift of landscape photography.

My photography has rekindled my beginner’s mind.

The challenge when dealing with sameness, is to notice the small changes that are unfolding (or have unfolded) over time. These offer the seeds for new knowledge and deeper understanding of the evolutionary complexity that exists. 

Being open to a new experience in the same old place (or in the same old relationship) requires the zen attitude of having a child’s mind when dealing with what you may believe is ‘the familiar’. The beginner’s mind has no assumptions, no preconceived ideas about how things should or should not be. Instead, it allows you to be open to the ongoing changes that are unfolding right in front of your eyes.

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Labels and water-tight language

In consulting with clients, I have noticed how problems are given an absolute, immovable, dominant status in the way that they are spoken about. Words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’ highlight the water-tight nature of the problem being encountered. Comments such as: ‘my husband is always late’, ‘my daughter never does her homework’, ‘my boss is always in a bad mood’, ‘my wife never listens to what I am telling her’ reflects how one may inadvertently put those we are having difficulty with into a sealed, water-tight box.

Water-tight language about the problem generally entraps a person, and restricts and limits possibilities moving forward into the future.

Due to the co-operative nature of energy and informational flow, there is an ongoing recursive loop between how we think, how we speak and how we experience reality. In essence this means that what we think, is what we will see and experience. Linked to this idea is the notion of how we may unconsciously create a label of another person which then determines how we perceive and interact with this person. In a previous article I covered in detail how labels get created, resulting in self-fulfilling prophecies. In essence, a label gets created when an authoritative observer dogmatically attributes and describes certain behaviours to another person in a water-tight way, and then continues to perpetuate this perspective over time. A label starts as a seed, that eventually grows into a huge tree.

One way to break labels is to question the assumptions that you may be making when you explain or describe an experience. Engaging in a reflective conversation that offers space helps to highlight and reveal the tacit assumptions that you may be making when you try and give meaning to your experiences with others.

I enjoy long walks in the country side. I pass by a tree that I have developed a connection (relationship) with. I find myself taking many photographs of this tree. While the tree is fixed in the ground in a permanent way, I have noticed that this tree does not have an absolute, fixed perceptual energy to it. It seems to change depending on the time of day that I walk pass, the emotional mood that I am in and the climatic conditions that are prevailing at a given point in time. These factors tend to combine to co-create a certain reality of the tree for me. I share some of the photographs to reveal the range of realities that are reflected by this lone beautiful tree.

Just after sunrise today
After sunrise
A week ago after snow
After snow

The above two photographs were taken with a 100mm lens but from the exact opposite viewpoint when I took the photographs.

Two months ago just after sunset
After sunset
Beautiful autumn colours in October
Beautiful autumn colours
Thick mist today
Thick mist

The above three photographs were taken more or less from the exact same viewpoint, with the same wide angle lens.

A creative perspective
A creative perspective

The above photograph was a creative expression of how I felt about the tree. I did a zoom burst to capture this image.