Diane Phillips: Picture This - Life With A Different Perspective

A change of view - a look from above at the 22nd annual International Cultural Wine and Food Festival earlier this year, thanks to Tribune photographer Terrel W. Carey.

A change of view - a look from above at the 22nd annual International Cultural Wine and Food Festival earlier this year, thanks to Tribune photographer Terrel W. Carey.


Diane Phillips


Photographers must be about the luckiest people in the world. When they don’t like the view they see, they can change a lens. 50mm to wide angle, 100mm to panoramic, 400mm to capture the hair on a hare. The price they pay is lugging all that special equipment around, tripod, camera bag, backdrop, cords and cables. But what a deal – a tiny bit of heavy lifting for the ability to create the view you want when it was not there the first time you looked at it, like magic in a leather bag.

Unlike cameras and video, we mortal humans believe the perspective we have is fixed. We are singular in our view, as if we were handed a lens and with only a modicum of filtering – what we read in the morning papers, what we see online, what we hear from friends or on radio - we look at life through it. A single lens life. This is how we see things so this is how they must be. Sometimes we refer to perspective as opinion. That’s why we say things like “You’re entitled to your opinion,” meaning of course that your opinion is not the right one.

But if you think about it, you realise opinion is just perspective influenced by experience and if that is the case, while you cannot influence your past experience, you can alter the way you viewed it.

Just as an aside and feel free to skip this paragraph if time is short, this is the stuff that keeps me awake at night. It’s especially hard to sleep, or hard for me to sleep, when my mind races and there is a full moon or a super moon. I am alone with my thoughts. The moon is a renewable source of mental energy. Its light floods the room through high, naked glass panes. It casts shadows. I resume the premise:

Suppose you could alter your perspective and suppose you could do it at will. A lot of people do. We may not think of it in those terms but occasionally we hear or read about it. In the 1980s, Esquire magazine uncovered the ability to alter life by how you look at it in an issue devoted to a single subject, work. The cover read “What are you doing for the rest of your life?”

As reporters and writers interviewed the famous and not so famous to see how they felt about their jobs and their lives given the jobs or careers they had, they discovered something which surprised them. More and more people with perfectly fine jobs living in perfectly respectable neighbourhoods raising what appeared to be perfectly adjusted children were quitting their perfectly acceptable and predictable life.

A few of them simply woke up one day and said they wanted a change. They were not dissatisfied with their jobs. They did not dislike their supervisor or find the people they worked with distasteful. For the most part, they enjoyed the work. They did not want a divorce from their spouse. They just wanted more out of life. So they were doing the unthinkable. Even with kids in college, they were leaving their perfectly perfect jobs for the unknown.

It turned out that work wasn’t so bad. It just got in the way of living. And these surprising interviewees had done exactly what the photographer does. They were not satisfied with the picture in front of them so they were prepared to change it. Not all the changes led to lives of fresh strawberries and double clotted cream. Some who made the bold move faced recriminations.

It tended to be easier if the spouse were earning a good living and agreed that one of them needed a new lens on life.

If they could do it, we could, too. But change is scary. Changing sleep patterns depending on the moon is one thing. Thinking about a career about-face or starting a new life in a completely different environment is another. My guess, and it is no more than that, is that creative people are the least likely to desire change, but just wish there was less pressure. Writers really do not have a choice. We are glued, attached, hooked on and married to words and cannot imagine life without them from the time we first form a sentence that satisfies or touch a keyboard and magic appears on a monitor. We cannot fathom not having a story to tell and trying to find a good way to tell it.

For the majority of folks whose careers or life paths lie outside the creative arts, there are keys to greater satisfaction that I believe are vastly underexplored and within every single person’s reach, regardless of age, financial status or education. Both connect you with others.

The first is friendship. The happiest people, researchers find, are those with close friends. It takes work to keep friends and women are much better at it than men. But if you pick up a smart phone, scan your contacts and pick just one name of someone you like and call and say hello, you might find the lens you are looking at life through looks just a little bit brighter.

The other source of a better lens is volunteering. If you doubt that the greater satisfaction lies in giving, come to Mosseff House, Fox Hill Road, on Sunday morning about 10:30. That’s where the Bahamas Feeding Network is based and when you see some 40 volunteers prepping, cooking, plating the hot meals to feed more than 1700 people every Sunday, and you see them give them out in the community and load them into vans to distribute throughout the island, you do not see people who have given up their Sunday midday. You see people who feel something deep inside that they may not even be able to put into words.

They did not have to change jobs to change the picture in front of them. They just had to give a bit of themselves to help make a small corner of the world a little better.


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