For the last two years I’ve proposed a word to retire. My attempts to reduce the use of the words “awesome” and “outrage” have been dismal failures. If anything, people seem to gravitate to the extremes more than ever. Apparently the influence of a table tennis blogger only goes so far. I am however, undeterred. Much like in many of my matches, a different strategy will be required. As we approach 2019 I choose to promote a word, rather than retire one. I would like to nominate the word “perspective.”
Why perspective? Perspective basically means a point of view. We all have our own perspectives on life. Our individual experiences have brought us to a place where we see the world in a certain way. The relative importance of something, totally depends on our perspective. There’s an excellent chance that someone who strongly disagrees with you is neither evil, stupid, or uninformed. It’s far more likely that their priorities have been shaped by life experiences, different than your own. To see something from another’s viewpoint might provide a much truer outlook.
When I coach table tennis, I try to introduce players to different perspectives. If they normally play close to the table, sometimes I’ll have them play further back. If they are used to attacking, sometimes I’ll have them defend. A different perspective provides greater understanding. Seeing things from the perspective of someone else encourages tolerance and empathy. Taking a step back provides a better view of what has the greatest significance. The person who sees things most differently can provide the greatest insights into an opposing position.
The great enemies of perspective are those things that block our view, and that keep us from looking from a different angle. My goal as a coach, and as a amateur philosopher, is not necessarily to change a player or person. Instead, it is to introduce different perspectives, or to encourage consideration and understanding of very different attitudes. We can be forgiven if we feel like we’ve seen it all, but none of us know it all.