Not long ago I started Neil Gaiman’s masterclass on writing. He’s probably my favourite fiction author and I always find myself being immensely drawn into his stories. Quite frankly, it speaks to me in a way few writers manage. Well, chapter 3 talks about the sources of inspiration—as a storyteller where do you unearth the ideas? Or rather how. Amongst some precious gems, one piece of advice struck me as essential: learn to explore different points of view. As he usually does, Neil develops this idea in a quite funny and quirky manner. Please bear with me while I get to my point.
You probably know about Snow White, whether you read some versions or saw the classic Disney adaptation. Well, as you may recall, Snow White lies in a coffin for months before being discovered by a prince that, let's be honest, tries to kidnap her. Isn’t it odd? What kind of prince would fall in love with a corpse? And what kind of person has skin white as snow, lips red as blood and can lie in a coffin as if noting happened? Well, it appears that Snow White recounts the tale of a vampire and a necrophile. I would then argue that the step-mother was a very sensible person trying to save the world. Of course, you could discard all of it by pointing out that it’s just a children’s story (cough, cough) and we shouldn’t think too much about it. Nevertheless, you cannot deny that shifting the angle is relevant and brings some perspective to the narrative. You can always shift your point of view and I believe this philosophy applies to fiction as well as life.
The importance of perspective is something I am constantly reminded of in my quest for mental clarity. It’s as fundamental to the Stoics as it is to the Bhakti yogis. You have little influence on the external events, but you have power over how you perceive it. You can choose its weight and its relevance on your wellbeing. I think it’s especially true now. Now, that I had to cancel a trip that I’ve been working on for years. For sure, it sucks. But life goes on, I am lucky to live and be able to do what I love. I might travel later this year, or not. If I was fully enlightened, I would know that this world is illusion and that this trip is not a source of happiness. Yet, I’m still a dented can and often catch myself being bummed down, fairly stressed or sad. During these moments, I firmly believe I can choose to view it from another angle and discard negative thoughts.
'Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.' — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Furthermore, there is more to it than just shifting my perspective to what I’m subjected to. In 2018, I did my 300 yoga teacher training in India with my mentor Raghunath. Our spiritual talks brought me a lot of food for thoughts and, to this day, one sentence keeps coming back: ‘Enthusiasm is everything.” You see, you choose how the external affects you, but you also affect the external within you. Have you ever noticed how some tasks are made harder just because you were dreading them? Did you observe that you can perform the same task with a different mindset and completely change how you perceive it? Since this training, I firmly believe that enthusiasm calls for enthusiasm and my mentality was shifted from negativity to positivity. Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds and by no means do I manage to constantly keep in check my optimism. But it’s a start, and I know that the more I explore, the easier it gets to not be damaged by external events or use my own sensitivity to enhance my experiences.
Whether you believe you are not the mind or that the only thing you have control over is the mind, perception is a key element that affects how we evolve in the world. One should always reflect on his perspective.