8.23.2010

Is life good? What's your perspective?


view of the Blanton Museum ceiling from opposite angles.

I think, very clearly, that your point of view depends on your angle of view.  I am just human and as petty and selfish and self-indulgent as the next person.  When I left the Blanton Museum on Sunday, with my beautiful wife, I caught myself thinking, "How do I get famous?  Why do I struggle?  "Why are we born just to suffer and die?" "Where's my Porsche?"  Usually the universe takes its time to punish me for stupid and selfish thoughts but on this particular day the universe decided to instruct rather than to overtly punish.  (If you are religious, it was God;  if not, it was random occurrence misinterpreted by me).

As we walked back toward my shiny car, in the 104 degree heat, we came across a young, African American man in tattered clothes, carrying a mangled cane (the kind that blind people use to navigate), sweating profusely and obviously under emotional distress. As we can closer to the intersection he sensed our presence and called out, "Can someone please help me cross this street?"

Of course, we walked right over and introduced ourselves and offered our help.  According to him he'd been tossed out of his housing because his social security check didn't arrive on time.  Didn't matter to me what the story was.  He was obviously in physical and mental distress.  What he needed was enough money to cover his rent until his check came (a day or two) and perhaps some money for food.  We led him to our car and got directions from him.  He called his landlord and told him he had the money he needed to be allowed back into his room till his check arrived.  We gave him a bottle of water and some packages of cookies we had in the car.  We gave him the money he needed and a bit more to buy some food.  A total of $30.  He seemed genuinely appreciative.

For $18 we gained some insight into art at the Matisse show at the Blanton Museum.  For a few dollars more I was able to confront my own selfishness, my lack of appreciation for the enormous luxury of my own life,  my pettiness and, even my cynicism.  It was an enormously small price to pay to be reminded how wonderful and comfortable my life is and how lucky I have been.

The cynic asked, "Was I scammed out of $30?"  God no.  I was given a chance to see reality thru a different prism.  I was given a gift.  I'm glad the universe decided on instruction yesterday instead of punishment.  I hope I can hold on to the lesson.

The two images above show me two points of view.  How radically different the same ceiling looks from two different sides.  Shot minutes apart.  I am so happy I can see.

16 comments:

Daniel Fealko said...

"Is life good?"

As my 85-year-old father so succinctly puts it, "Any day above ground is a good day. Some are just better than others."

I believe your experience illustrates how one's life is enriched by the simple act of compassion towards another. Maybe it's compassion and not Art that teaches us what it truly means to be human.

POds said...

An interesting post...

But i couldn't help but stumble at your "Wheres my porche?" line.


Now, i don't think I deserve more, but i certainly want more.

I think it's fascinating the complex issues that befall people that give them the opinion that they're not as well off as they should be.

I believe this is a consequence of comparing ourselves with others.

Instead I think if we find ourselves in this situation, then we probably have too much time on our hands and it's up to us to fix it by enriching our lives with some culture, volunteer work, more friends, networking etc. That's what I’ve been doing over the last year or so and the changes that go on mentally because of it are unreal.

John Krumm said...

I agree. While art ranks up there, I think compassion is one of our highest expressions of human ability. It's just hard to maintain with distance.

kirk tuck said...

POds,

Please understand that my "Where's my Porsche?" is pure hyperbole to make the point. If I really wanted a Porsche I would go buy one. But I think you are right it's both the comparison with other people and the consumer way of measuring things by how much stuff you have.

Happiness is so much more about connection and right thinking.

But now I'm sounding all Buddhist and what not........not that there's anything wrong with it....

Jim said...

Sometimes in life you're asked to do a favor but you're really being given one.

Tyson said...

Kirk, I just wanted to say thanks for this post. It's something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis.

Fran├žois said...

Surprising how a blog about one's centre of interest may lead to essential questions about life.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

Sonshine Square Photography said...

Thanks Kirk for a very provocative post. The kind of question/s the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible wrestled with all his life.

Mike said...

I second what Jim said. You helped this guy out, but he probably gave you as much back. Puts things into perspective.

Steve Burns said...

Keep giving $30.00 away and your Porsche may arrive some day. Then again it may not.

You are proving a point that the car is not really important to you, it is not what life is about to you; other more important things are.

It was a wonderful thing that you did for that man Sunday.

kirk tuck said...

Steve, I really don't think I did any more than any other person would have done in exactly the same position. And my largess is relative. If I were poor, giving over $30 would be a big deal. If I were wealthy I should be ashamed of my parsimonious contribution. The truth is that it was the least we could do. And I think about that too.

Ezequiel Mesquita said...

Powerful thougths and a moving story.
Living in a third world country, I'm frequently confronted with distressing situations. Besides trying to lend a hand or at least mitigate, I couldn't help but to feel immensely grateful for the life I live, no matter how much worries I can think I have.
Thanks for sharing and what a beautiful pair of pictures to illustrate the point.

The Photophile said...

You can't give without getting in return, that's just a simple fact of life. I think you just gained something very special today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve."

Now about the Porsche...
;-)

kirk tuck said...

I'm thinking the Caymen would be just right for me. A little nicer than the Boxster (and I don't really like convertibles...) but not as pricey as the 911's of late. Now, if I can just get about $70,000 in trade on my 2003 Element I'll be right within striking distance.....

All the best, Kirk

Anonymous said...

nice post Kirk, made me stop and think about my life also like how the photos worked with the story

RocketRick said...

On behalf of a fellow human, I thank you.

Now, on a different tangent, forget the Porsche. Where's my 35-100mm f/2.0 lens?