We are constantly at risk of losing perspective around the challenges we face. We mistake what is manageable for a catastrophe; we despair of ourselves too soon; we alienate others by over-reacting; we don’t notice and appreciate what there is still to be grateful for; we forget we’re going to die and that a lot of today’s headache will soon be forgotten. These cards provide eloquent invitations to recover a wiser, calmer, redemptive perspective on our lives.
Each card identifies a fresh perspective we might take on problems – perspectives coloured by time, space, history, culture and travel among others – nudging us gently and compassionately towards a more liveable relationship with our difficulties.
1 – The Oldest Living Tree
This not very tall spruce tree (it’s only five metres in height) has been standing on a ridge of the Fululfjlallet mountain in Sweden for more than nine thousand years. It has kept going in the face of appalling weather in quiet obedience to the same basic forces that have always governed its existence: rain, sunlight, wind and the nutrients it imperceptibly draws from the forbidding rocky soil beneath it.
2 – A Child Looking at Ants
The child doesn’t know the science of insect life – but they’re newly astonished by the strangeness of existence nevertheless. What would it be like to be a miniscule creature marching in file towards a tiny fissure at the base of a brick wall? Do they have friends? Do they get sad? Do they know they are being watched? The least thing, properly attended to, could furnish a lifetime of thought. We don’t have to stop speculating, as we once did.
3 – The Middle of the Night
The entire country – almost – must be asleep; our minds are free to wander, for a little while. Unusually grand questions seem powerfully relevant: what have I done with my life, where am I going? We revise assumptions: was that rejection that felt so painful at the time actually a veiled invitation we didn’t know how to read: they said ‘later’, we thought it meant never. A remark we made years ago suddenly strikes us as deeply embarrassing. We feel sorry for kindnesses we failed to show. We are larger, more complex – often nicer and more interesting – beings than is apparent in the daytime. Could we dare to show others more of our middle–of–the–night selves?
4 – The Desert
We couldn’t survive here long on our own; but the empty, vast spaces are inviting to the mind. Our own lives – and our concerns – are on a tiny scale, by comparison. Things that have up until now been looming so large (what’s gone wrong with the Singapore office, a colleague’s cold behaviour, the disagreement about patio furniture) is cut perfectly down in size. Local, immediate sorrows are reduced; none of our troubles, disappointments or hopes have very much significance for a time.