Perspective

May 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last weekend a friend of mine asked me about 9/11.

I was raised in suburban New York, and lived there until 2005 when I moved to St. Louis.[ref]Where I’d argue I did most of my actual Growing Up.[/ref] Luckily nobody in my immediate circle was directly affected by the events that day.

I was in Social Studies class when news broke. As I remember it, a teacher’s assistant came in to our classroom, said “there was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center,” and left the room most likely to continue spreading the news. Our social studies teacher — the teacher most uniquely suited to guide a proper discussion or lesson — I think got quiet for a few moments before steering us back to our regularly scheduled programming. I’m sure we had a very busy agenda that day.

Incidentally, I don’t really remember any specific thing I learned from Social Studies that year.

On the other hand. In fifth period Art, our teacher started the class by saying “we’ve got a lot of work to do, but something is happening today that’s really important.” She told us all to collect our books, and brought us to the library where we spent the next 40 minutes watching the news on the one communal TV in the building. We watched one of the towers fall. I don’t think anyone asked very many questions; we were mostly silent and afforded the opportunity to absorb what was in front of us. Surprisingly there weren’t many other classes of students sharing the space with us.

No shock here: I don’t really remember any other specific thing I learned from Art class that year, but I do distinctly remember that.

I don’t mean to in any way diminish the very real ramifications of what happened on 9/11… but one of the best lessons I take away from the experience is about perspective: Having the vision to understand when something really important is happening, and having the wherewithal to take action accordingly.

It’s great to be absorbed in work and fill your schedule up to the brim — and I’m often there — but if you don’t have the perspective to pick up signals as they’re flaring… you’re lost.

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