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It was a quiz show that reminded me of the importance of perspective.
Only Connect is a UK quiz show that is super hard, super clever and really lots of fun. It’s a very different quiz that isn’t just abut “knowing” stuff, but also about seeing connections and patterns – it’s most certainly a “thinking outside of the box” kind of quiz. Two good friends and I had the wonderful honour of appearing on the show (three episodes!) in the most recent series – series fourteen. It was our captain, Paul R, who reminded me of the difference perspective makes. He observed to me and our other team mate, Paul J (yes, as one of my niblings pointed out, quite a lot of my friends are called Paul!) that our reactions after our last appearance very much summed each of us up. His reaction was “we should have won”; Paul J’s was “Great we achieved three Walls with full points”; mine?… “I’m just happy to be here.”

Three very different reactions to the same experience. Three different stories all with the same plot. Three perspectives from three different folk.

Telling the same story from different perspectives is a device used throughout storytelling and in development of cultural thinking. Probably one of the most well known examples is in the Kurosawa film Rashomon. This is a mystery where a murder is recounted by four different people and the result is a fine study of the nature of truth as defined through perspective. This approach has been used in stories, films and religious texts. Hero uses a similar device with the Hero and the Emperor reinterpreting events around how the Hero killed the Emperor’s enemies and what his ultimate motivation is. Less seriously (and to brilliant effect) we have the multiple endings to the film Clue where different murderers are posited to the audience and a final “but this is what really happened…”

I’m also reminded of the way the bible retells the same story more than once but from different perspectives. The Genesis narrative for example has the creation of Humanity recorded twice – once as part of the mythic poem of chapter one and then again as part of the mythic prose of chapter two. The record of the kings of Israel and Judah is recorded in the books of Samuel and Kings and then again in Chronicles – the perspective of the editor of Chronicles being far different from the editor of Samuel/Kings, with the Exile in Babylon being a major factor in the different perspectives of the two. We also have four different narrators recounting the major events of Jesus’ years of ministry, final days, resurrection and ascension. Why four and not just one?

Because Perspective matters. Because being presented with more than one perspective matters. Because what the storyteller has experienced and seen and felt and how they have been treated matters. Because in developing our Empathy for others, in seeing others as people equal to ourselves their perspective is essential, both their perspective on themselves and on us. Because in developing our wisdom and knowledge of this world, a narrow singular perspective is limiting and often dangerous.

So back to our Only Connect experience… Because I wanted to have a bit of fun and to demonstrate how perspective influences (and potentially even changes) our experience, my team mates and I shall each recount our Only Connect story. And that’s what the next three posts are going to be.

Three very different reactions to the same experience. Three different stories all with the same plot. Three perspectives from three different folk.