We have a young German girl staying with us at the moment. She’s the daughter of an old friend who has come to live with us for two months over the summer. It’s interesting to observe her reactions to being in a new country, especially one so different from her own. She’s been enchanted by the New Zealand scenery, amazed at the fact that our housing is so diverse and has been exposed to all sorts of foods, ideas and ways of living quite foreign to that of her own experience.
What’s struck me about watching her response to all that newness is the power of one facet of human behaviour: comparison. It’s made me realise how we as a species constantly compare things. Am I familiar with this? If not, do I understand it? If I understand it, does it have merit? Is this a better way to do things than the way I'm used to? Does it make sense? Such questions lead us to continuously weighing things up against what we already know and making judgements accordingly.
Watching this has made me realise that we might not actually be capable of looking at things with fresh eyes. Our past experience, and even our cumulative prejudices or preferences, really does make that next to impossible. And in a way, that seems a bit sad, even though comparison helps us make decisions and improvements in life. It's made me wonder how we can be more open to the new, without being influenced by the old.
As an author, I often get asked which of my four novels I like the best. I usually respond by saying that it's a bit like asking a person to choose which of their children they like best. My response to this question is often followed up by a comment telling me which one that person likes best, yet more comparison. It’s all such an intrinsic part of life that we don’t realise we’re even doing it.
What do you think? Can you truly have fresh perspective in light of the power of comparison? And how do we bring a newness of thinking to our lives in order to embrace that which lies outside of our own current comprehension?
Let me know what you think!