Once upon a time, there were two philosophers: William Toppingham, and Archibald Siderwick. Both philosophers had their own ideas, and both had numerous followers.
The Toppingheimers believed that they were superior, as they always looked at every issue from up above, believing that a bird’s eye view would bring every problem into clear perspective.
The Siderwickians believed that wisdom was on their side, as they took a more “grounded” approach, looking at issues from various sides (but never from up above, as they didn’t want to be seen as foolish Toppingheimers)
One day, a young child asked a simple question: “what shape is a soup can?” His Toppingheimer father said, “It’s a circle”. But his Sidewickian uncle (who happened to be visiting at the time) said, “that’s ridiculous. It’s clearly rectangular!” The visit had been going well, up until that point, but this simple question put the two brothers at odds. Before too long, the uncle left, and the child still did not have a satisfactory answer
The two brothers each took the question to their mentors, and each was confirmed in his answer. Toppingham said “circle”, and Siderwick said “rectangle.”
Within a few days, the argument had been taken up by the masses. The Toppingheimers staged protests and demonstration, the Sidewickians resorted to insults and name-calling. It wasn’t too long before the first rocks were thrown (both sides blamed the other side for starting it), and ultimately, blood flowed in the streets.
Maybe my story is silly, but I think my point is clear: it’s surprisingly hard to look at an issue from someone else’s perspective. Who was right in my story? Both…and neither. From one angle, a soup can is a circle…from another, it’s a rectangle, but viewed from all angles, it’s clear that neither point of view is completely accurate.
We live in a divided world. The current “soup can” is a virus, and we all are looking at the issue from one of 2 or 3 perspectives. I have my own point of view on the matter…and I have my reasons. I firmly believe that my way of seeing the issue is logical, rational, intelligent, and correct. But guess what? Those who hold opposing views also firmly believe that their way of seeing things is logical, rational, intelligent and correct. Who’s ultimately right? Probably, to some degree, the holders of both views. Who is wrong?…probably to an even greater extent, both camps. Maybe the answer to who’s right should be: “Who cares? Let’s find some common ground and start behaving like civilized human beings once again!”
Even while writing this, I must confess that I still find it hard to see past my own nose to look into the eyes of someone who holds a different viewpoint than me. I still find myself so blinded by my own desire to be right that I can’t see how I could possibly be wrong. So if you find yourself in the same room as me, and I get upset with you because, “I’m right and you’re wrong”, please be patient with me. This whole process of seeing things from someone else’s point of view is something I’m still working on…but I’m trying. I only ask that you try too. Hopefully before too long, we’ll all learn to get along again.