Diversity in unity: the same thing in different ways (#170)

After running in my local (but beautiful) national park this Sunday, I made an extremely pleasant observation. Followed by a second but distressing observation of the same thing I felt pleasant about. The final observation I made was an observation of my observations in finding diversity in unity. Let me explain-

In the park, I stopped running earlier than I had intended to. Since this was a rare feat, I let myself wander a bit when I came across a sign. The sign stated:

NO SWIMMING

CAUTION

Swimming or bathing in river is extremely dangerous

Failure to comply will result in ₹500 fine

By order

A stick-figure was drawn swimming on the sign with a red slash symbolizing the prohibition imposed upon humans. [1]

As I strolled ahead, I heard the serene sound of a flowing stream, mixed up with human noises I didn’t find difficulty in disregarding. The trees that covered my roof no longer did now as I stepped outside their territory into the land of the river. I was on a bridge. I could see the river now. And of course I saw people in the river. A few were laying entirely straight on their backs, enjoying the cool flow of water beneath and beside them. A couple fathers swam with their children, one of the adults consistently shouting, “Commando!” to a kid for reasons I’m still unaware of. A few dipped themselves till their knees and felt the water streaming by. A small group was struggling to move upstream to the other side of the river divided by the bridge, making fun out of their struggle and shouting cheerily. I could sense smiles and happy noises all around.

I sat on a bench-like thing on the bridge. Seeing beauty and feeling present. What a way to spend the day!

Then a plastic bottle flowing downstream caught my attention. It was thrown by the “Commando!” shouting man. I gazed at the bottle intently as it made its way out of my visual field. My worldview seemed to change to another set. Beauty turned upside-down. Everyone enjoying turned into monsters destroying. That single plastic bottle changed everything I observed before.

The environment hit me. This is bad, I thought. People are throwing away plastic bottles, doing harm to the environment. Why are there humans in a place for endangered species and other animals anyway? What if that person slips on that rock. They are causing danger to themselves too. That sign- why isn’t anyone here adhering to it?

Then came the meta observation. What am I seeing? People having fun in the river or some careless humans destroying mother nature?

I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what I see. Only what I look at. I looked diversely due to a specific focus on the kinds of stories I told myself of the same unit thing I was seeing the whole while.

Translation: At first, I associated the image with people having fun and enjoying themselves. Next, due to a trivial plastic bottle which ignited another story I could tell myself of what I was seeing, I associated the image with turtle murderers, trespassers and wannabe suiciders.

Mysterious thing, the human mind is (at least as yet).

Footnotes

[1] – As it happens, I didn’t take a picture of the original board. So I had to use someone else’s picture of a No swimming sign.

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