Musings on the Evolution of Perspective

As an adult who has established a set of opinions based on my experiences in my life, I would say that perspective has everything to do with the shaping of our opinions. Many people don’t seem to realize that disagreements are often opportunities for us to consider other people’s perspectives… and differences in perspective are very important, especially when we look back over trends in the opinions of our society historically.

When I was growing up, I remember my dad telling me one time about his view on hippies. It was one of those talks I remember so well because it told me so much about my dad’s values… also, I love hearing my dad tell stories.

I was probably 14 or 15 and some of my friends had started getting into burning incense and stuff… the whole hippie fascination thing that was going on while I was walking the halls of junior high. Of course, I jumped on the bandwagon… it seemed like a really groovy thing to do for someone who was trying out the whole tree hugger thing… and got an incense burner with patchouli sticks, from the head shop/ninja supply store at our local mall.

Anyway, so I’m burning the incense in my room… jam box playing a Led Zeppelin mix tape that one of my buddies made for me… Dad walks in sniffing the air. He’s kinda visibly agitated, which is not normal for my dad… he’s more of a smiler. So he says something like, “I recognize that smell. I smelled it when I was a teenager. The boys came back from Vietnam and there were people spitting and cussing and yelling at them. Those boys got drafted and served their country… a lot of them didn’t come back alive and the ones who did were impacted by it forever. The people who showed such disrespect for those boys smelled like that,” and points at my incense.

Wait… hold the phone… Ok so everyone at school is all like, “hippies are cool man, they wore bell-bottoms and tie dye” and I’m like, “peace, love, joy, kindness…rainbows?? I like those things… hippies must have been pretty cool…” and all of a sudden, I’m talking to Dad and he’s like, “I wasn’t impressed with hippies.”

Why the disconnect? I figured my dad would like the cool peace-hope-love values of the hippie movement…

It all comes back to perspective, which is shaped by experience.

Dad had an opinion of hippies, and, by extension, patchouli incense, that was shaped by what he witnessed first-hand as a teenager. He saw things that I can never see first-hand that shaped his perspective. He listened eagerly to news reports for information about his friends, neighbors, and cousins who were drafted and sent to Vietnam. He saw hippies protesting the war in Vietnam by shouting and disrespecting soldiers who had just come home from the hell of war.

The legends of hippies that survived in the mainstream, primarily through the revised canon of Sears and JCPenney catalogs, transmitted a different story… a story of peace signs, bell-bottoms, paisleys, rainbows, and all that. That’s pretty much what we think about when we hear people say “hippie” in 2018… because we live in a superficial society where individuality doesn’t seem to really register with a lot of folks.

So what about the peace-love-rainbow thing? Since my youth, I’ve talked to lots of people and you know what I’ve noticed? They’re all different. How remarkable! I’ve met people who are true hippies (my definition) who are loving and kind and peaceful… and I’ve also met super political angsty people who I honestly just don’t have time for… so there’s no reason for me to assume that there aren’t both kinds.

My point is that our perspectives change from generation to generation and sometimes we should take the time to consider someone else’s perspective instead of just being a selfish prick and thinking that everyone who doesn’t agree with your opinions is an idiot.

Each of us have had different experiences that have shaped our perspectives. We have to stop condemning and criticizing other people/generations based on our own very limited perspectives.