A couple of weeks ago I took a few days off work and went into Birmingham with a friend. We had a look at the German Market and went for lunch in The Cube. The lunch was at Rodizio Rico, which I’d never been to before and I highly recommend. After lunch, we took an elevator to the top floor and stepped into Marco Pierre White’s restaurant for coffee.
The views from the top floor were amazing and these views and the experience of the day in Birmingham formed the basis for a bit of mulling things over on my part. My friend doesn’t work from the office, though I do, and having her as my guide that day meant I got a small taste of a very different way of doing things. It’s not very often we’re given a chance to have this, but it’s a very valuable chance to get.
As the day went on, it was made clearer to me that there was another Birmingham there, one that I’d never encountered. I was struck by how the same street, the same restaurant, can have very different meanings to different people. What became clearer is a sense of the extent to which we live in our own bubbles. My world and that of my companion shared the same physical location, but in terms of mental experience? Maybe, not as much as you may think. She had her own unique sense of the setting, based on past experience and her own mood and personality. I, of course, had mine.
The day included the elevated view of the city centre that I’ve tried to capture in my photos. This was very striking, as this view was very new to me and threw the whole city centre into a new light. This brought home how one simple change in viewpoint makes things look very different. It also reminds me that for all the noise made over different views, the arguments are usually without good cause. We’re not arguing over the object, but over our illusions about the object. It’s odd when you think of it like that, isn’t it?
This brings to mind an old Buddhist story about three blind men and an Elephant. The one where 3 blind men are asked to examine an Elephant. One grasps the leg, the other the tail, the third the trunk. Based on these limited perceptions, they all form very different and inaccurate pictures of the creature. One thinks it’s like a tree, the other a rope, the third a snake. They then argue heatedly and none of them will budge from their views. If they’d stopped to realise that their perceptions were incomplete, that what they had was just a picture in their minds, they’d have realised that they were arguing over their illusions. These illusions are insubstantial, without form. They were arguing over nothing, in fact.
Worth considering isn’t it?