Wednesday, August 22, 2007
by Troy Chapman
When we look at the world around us, we think that’s what we’re seeing: the world. In truth, we’re seeing little framed packets of the world because the human mind is like a frame shop and is constantly framing up pieces of reality and hanging them on its inner walls. We get so used to seeing these framed pictures that we eventually just accept them as reality. But if we remember they’re really framed pictures, we understand that we can reframe them any time we choose and in so doing open up a whole new way of seeing the world. We suddenly see something we’ve been looking at forever in an entirely new light.
Consider this statement by a scientist working on the Human Genome Project: “In one sense, genetic research is a gene’s way of looking at itself.”
Wow. That's like an explosion inside the mind. Genes have become self conscious by mutating until coming up with this thing we think of as "the brain.” This brain wants to know where it came from and investigates its origins all the way back to genes. Genes are now looking at themselves. That’s reframing.
Or consider a political science teacher I had many years ago who asked us on the first day of class what we thought caused the American Civil War. We gave all the usual answers — slavery, the dispute over federal authority vs. states’ rights, etc. And after awhile he wrote a single word on the board: glaciers. We all stared at it stupidly until he explained that glaciers once came all the way down to the Mason-Dixon Line, depositing rich topsoil that allowed the North to grow on an acre what took 10 in the South, making a huge labor force necessary in the South and leading to the practice of slavery. So, ultimately, glaciers caused the Civil War. We all got a lesson that day in the complexity of cause and effect.
We can reframe anything by shifting our perspective. The genetic researcher shifted perspective by looking at his work from the gene’s point of view; the political science teacher did it by looking at a bigger chunk of time. We can look at relationships, situations and ourselves from another’s perspective, from God’s perspective, from the past or the future perspective, or even from the perspective of plants, animals, genes and microorganisms. It’s one of the greatest gifts we possess and, strangely, probably one of the least used by most of us.
Look at life from the perspective of spirit and suddenly we see that we are spirit in human form. Trees are spirit in tree form. Mothers in law are spirit in mother-in-law form. And George Bush is spirit in George-Bush form. Maybe we’re all just God’s way of seeing himself from billions of different places and through billions of different eyes. We see this possibility by reframing.
All the great advancements and inventions of history have been the result of creative reframing. When Einstein saw time and space as one and the same thing, he revolutionized science. But it’s also a very practical thing. When I saw myself as a man in prison rather than a prisoner, it changed my life. When I had the thought that justice is giving people what they need rather than what they deserve, it transformed my relationship with the world.
So, ask yourself some creative questions. Questions that shake up what you think you know; turn things around, upside down and inside out, then put them back together in new ways. You might be surprised at how malleable the world really is and how willing we are to just accept what we’ve been told about it. It’s your wall, and you don’t have to hang mass-produced prints on it. With the coin of curiosity you can buy one-of-a-kind originals and life will be a hell of a lot more interesting for the purchase.
Painting by Troy Chapman