How many of us have screamed at someone in traffic, been impatient in a check-out line, or in a security line at an airport or other venue? I know I have. I also know that I have a backstory that affects what I do sometimes.
Realistically speaking, everyone has a backstory. Others can never know completely what sort of history people bring to every situation. Driving slow in traffic? It could be the person is lost, could be a visitor to the city, or maybe is having car trouble. In my neighborhood, there is the added element of distraction. I live close to a major medical center, and often people leave a hospital after visiting with a sick loved one, get behind the wheel, and drive. Their focus is NOT on the road.
Really, understanding the backstory, or at least imagining what it could be simply requires a shift in perspective. When I was doing some volunteer work years ago, I saw a film by National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones. Shifting the point of view can reveal what we otherwise miss. In the film, he was hired to photograph men fly fishing at dawn for a print advertisement. He went to the location, and the lighting was terrible, the mighty river looked like a murky pond, and there were a couple of men in waders standing in the murky water. Jones thought about the shot, and was so disappointed in what he was seeing and would capture for the assignment. Then he turned around. The sun was just over the horizon, reflecting on the water like glass, and the men in waders were in silhouette with the backdrop of a waterfall and the beautiful rolling countryside.
As a photographer myself, I can feel the excitement he must have felt finding the perfect shot, with the perfect light. However, if Jones had not turned at that moment, as he was ready to give up and try another day or location, he never would have found exactly I what he wanted.
Obviously, this event teaches the power of looking at things a different way, that often there is hidden beauty. Beauty is easy to miss when we only look at one aspect of a situation, person, problem, or idea. It taught me another lesson as well, though. Many times I will go out of my way, slow down, or do something I hadn’t planned in order to shift my perspective. Looking for the beauty has slowed me down many times, and never once have I been sorry. Remaining, or sometimes reminding myself to be open minded has shown me such beauty in simple ordinary everyday things. The ability to shift and willingness to move can rock our world.