An excerpt from The Contrary Canadian by Clayton Bye

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We spent years driving past the rock on the way to our camp north of Dryden. Never gave it anything more than a casual glance. Our middle child, Jackson, was the one who found her.

“Stop,” he yelled. “Stop the car!”

I backed up through a cloud of road-dust. Jackson told us to take a good look at the boulder that stood at the side of the road. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Slowly, like an image moving across a film screen in a science fiction or fantasy movie, the face of an old woman emerged from the dust.

Unable to accept that we’d been blind to this wonder  for so long, I got out of the car and walked over to the boulder. It was covered with lichens; The rock had been there for a long time.

Once seen, you can never forget the stone we came to call Baba. She’d been hidden from us for a long time, had existed in a world apart. But once our eyes were finally open, we became so enamoured with her that we developed the habit of stopping to visit.

Our perspective, how we see the world around us, how we determine the relative importance of things, is a complicated issue. What we see, hear, touch, taste and smell is modified and manipulated by a set of mental filters of unbelievable power and complexity. These filters can blind us to something in plain sight just as easily as they can lead us to see things that aren’t there.

As a student of the mind, I’ve had occasion to witness the power of such “perspective filters.” Try picking an impending event, focus your attention on it, roll the idea of the thing around in your mind. If you study this future with the filter of anticipation, you’ll find yourself looking forward to what’s coming. Screen your mental images of the future with the filter of dread, and you’ll begin to turn away.

Our mental filters find their origin in our opinions, beliefs and convictions. They can cause us to see ghosts, or they can render invisible a needed jacket that’s in plain view. They can narrow our vision to the extent that we see the negative in a relationship while also ignoring the good. Dual edged swords, these filters have the power to ruin our lives or make us heroic.

We can spend a lifetime trying to understand the power of perspective. But it isn’t necessary. I believe the easiest way to gain control of our lives (at least in the short-term) is to forget about understanding these filters and use them like any other tools in our toolbox. A hammer is a hammer, right? You don’t need to understand the science behind the tool to be able to use it to drive a nail.

So, when you want to do something and can’t seem to find the motivation, instead of trying to understand the big picture, why not try looking at the situation from different angles? Ask yourself “How could I do this and also have fun?” Poke and prod the situation until you find something you can focus on that’s exciting, that’s important to you. Keep at it until you come up with a plan of action that feels good or right. Then go to work.

You don’t need to understand perspective to change it. All you need to know is that it’s possible to alter your perspective by changing your focus.  

For example, you can take emotion out of play by ignoring what you’re feeling and putting your focus on the job at hand. I’ve done this many times. The simple choice of doing something, of throwing yourself into a task, then allowing the so-called motivation to follow when and if it wills,  can  result in the muting of the emotion which was dragging you down. Your actions may even generate a positive emotion to replace the unwanted one.

I’m not counselling you to ignore your problems. You’ll want to go back and deal with the underlying cause of the negative emotion, but it’s much easier to do this from a comparative emotional distance and after you’ve removed yourself from the situation. Do things on purpose. Become proactive, rather than reactive.

Let me be as clear about this as possible… Specific intentions are powerful commands your mind will act on. If you’re willing to put your focus on what’s desired and follow up with action, then some amazing things will begin to happen.

 

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published 4 books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books, published for others, include 3 award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com.
Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.
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2 thoughts on “An excerpt from The Contrary Canadian by Clayton Bye

  1. James L. Secor

    Oh, yes. Det. Lupee makes this comment regarding criminal profiling: that we filter through what we’d do, how we’d behave if. . . . This misses the point completely. Psychology is also middle-class. I found that it’s like beating my head against a brick wall to have people see what something is “like,” as they are fixed in the “This is what it is” corral. As happened with your family until one of your kids saw it. We do this as artists, forgetting that we are not normal/average/everyday.

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  2. Kenneth Weene

    In psycho babble we often use the term reframing to indicate trying to change perspective. It is often easier to have a kid around; they are constantly discovering new perspectives on the world.

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