Spirituality for Today – October 2015 – Volume 20, Issue 3

View from the Back Seat

Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Fall is the season of childhood memories for me. Our visit with my aunt and cousin had ended; mom placed me in the back seat of the car as she had done innumerable times. Gazing out of the window, I saw them falling, pushed by the breeze, and flashing their multi–colored brilliance in the afternoon sunlight – the autumn leaves. Already, the love of nature was entrenched in my psyche as well as the love of music. Amazingly, Autumn Leaves by Roger Williams was playing on the radio. Behind the steering wheel, my mother was driving us home and I am sure that she was concerned about many other things than music and leaves. For me, I was having a near mystical feeling. We were both in the same place, seeing a similar scene and, yet, having a different experience. For a number of distinct reasons, perspective was what mattered.

Life ends up being a buffet of experiences and our interpretation of the meaning of all of them rests on our "perspective." A hint of what constitutes the variety of our contributions to life's pleasures, challenges, and perplexities might be construed from this reality. From the pragmatic to the poetic, our viewpoint colors the impact of life on our being and how our life affects others. What establishes one's perspective? I believe that the strength of one's spirituality, reason, and emotional well–being sets the tone. Many divergent circumstances affect one's perspective including family and peer biases or traumatic personal experiences; wisdom and no small amount of courage are needed to govern and evaluate such influences.

One ship drives east and another west, with the self–same winds that blow; 'tis the set of the sails and not the gales that determines where they go. Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate, as we voyage along through life; 'tis the set of the soul that decides its goal – and not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Scripture tells us how we all possess different gifts; they come from the same Spirit but function within us uniquely. If we determine to use them for fulfilling the mission of serving the Giver of the gifts, we engage in the process of not only identifying and appreciating each gift, but also the task of understanding what perspective we bring to that identification and appreciation. Viewing and reviewing the person we are as we travel through life's undulations and changes, both gentle and radical, we can do no other than commit to the exploration of what forces compel our decisions and the motivations of word and deed in our daily lives. The life of prayer creates a singular perspective in regard to this operation. Here, perspective finds its highest state. A welcoming of this spiritual tendency gives to our viewpoints a corrective and a moral impulse based on righteousness. I would recommend that this light shine on the path of one's life and illumine those elements that shape one's perspective on the experience of living.

I would never assume to have the capacity of seeing things through the eyes of God – now, that's a perfect perspective – yet, God has taught us to see one another as his children and to relate to one another from that collective and relationship–oriented viewpoint. One can read volumes on the topic of a healthy perspective authored by learned psychologists, but I would think that what would be affirmed and what would be negated regarding the overall health of a person's perspective on life would fit neatly into a prayerful approach to the matter. Prayer heightens our notions of self–respect and self–worth in addition to forming that same attitude toward others. I am not suggesting that we become so na├»ve to think that all will be smooth and wonderful in relating to others, but that we adopt a loving perspective and subdue feelings of wariness and avoidance unless another shows cause. Perhaps, I think that God wishes that we look for the beauty first and try to nurture the best in one another.

Yes, as a young child, much of the great outside world was seen by me from the back seat of my parent's car. Without knowing how or why, I was touched in my mind and in my soul. Now, many decades later, I go to them again and again for that refreshment of thought and inspiration that gives re–assurance and confidence to my mortal bodily state and vivifies the journey of the immortal soul. It is funny how you remember certain seemingly insignificant and momentary scenes from early childhood and how profoundly those little memories color one's perspective on life.