Several weeks ago I found myself visiting with someone about the apparent oddity of a Christian finding beauty in Islam. She was not dismayed, but wanted to trade observations made discovering the treasures of other perspectives.
“If the universe is infinite,” I said, “right now I am in the exact center.”
“Okay,” she was a bit pensive.
“There is the exact same amount of ‘stuff’ above me as below me, to my left and to my right, and all around – I am the center of the universe, and it all revolves around me. Which has to be true if the universe is infinite.”
“Yes, that makes sense.”
“But if the universe is infinite, you are the center of it, too.” Her eyes lit up. “And so is he, and her, and all those guys hanging out over there – every person believes somehow that he or she is the center of the universe. All of us believe that on some level, and because the universe is infinite, all of us are right.”
She smiled. “Then every perspective is worth our respect, and every voice has something to share,” she said.
“Yes. And our perspectives are like windows in our house. Even in my own house I have more than one window, but somehow all those perspectives are mine. And all the windows in your house are your perspectives; each window sees a little and covers a little, but each of them is yours.”
And I remembered what Tariq Ramadan said about perspective in The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism. If all of us have houses which face the same ocean, many of us can imagine that other people have houses with windows, too. We know they have ways of viewing things which are just as much a part of them as our ways of viewing belong to us. And many people, for a time, can imagine going over to a neighbor’s house and maybe even looking at the distant ocean from their windows. We can share a bit in their perspectives.
What if, Tariq says, we can leave our own houses long enough to walk to the beach, dig our toes in the sand, and look back at all the houses we passed? How will we feel when we see where our own house was, who are neighbors are, and who else lives on our street?
And if we have a strong enough telescope, maybe we can even look across the ocean to people living on the other side, and see the sunlight shining off the windows in their houses, too.