Just been rereading The Master and his Emissary in which Iain McGilchrist explores the ways our two hemispheres see the world. The right hemisphere sees the whole picture and its context whereas the left sees it broken into parts. This also holds good for animals. Who would guess that birds use their eyes independently: the right (which perversely links to the left hemisphere) concentrates on the details of feeding, while the left eye keeps watch for predators.
He points out that how we look at something changes its reality for us. His example is a mountain, which means something very different to a painter than to a mining prospector, let alone a skier.
Picking that idea up and running with it, we do create our worlds from our perceptions and our expectations. A neighbour was complaining the staff at our local grocery store were rude and uncooperative, yet we have found them kind and helpful. Is it the same store?
Remember the story of the man who was moving towns. He stopped a stranger to ask how friendly the people were. The reply came as a question: “What were they like in your last place?” “Hostile and unhelpful!” “That's just how they are here.”
So I wonder whether this applies to our lives – and particularly my pain. It is so easy to see what we haven't got. Or how much more a neighbour has. I certainly hear my friends talking about places they have dined, movies seen, holidays planned or grandkids hugged. And these always seem bright, technicolor. After all, they show photos of the good moments. Not the days it rained, the time they got food poisoning or their grandchild threw a hissy fit. And my life seems rather sepia toned in comparison.
But what if I look for the bright hues, the loving gestures, the sunlight that bejewel my life. So many moments of delight. Why notice the lack or pain? How I value and judge my life depends on which hemisphere I look with – the wholistic or the nitpicking. How I describe it to myself will decide what I see. How I choose to see it will decide what I get.