You don’t have to be Einstein to understand how the concept of relativity works us in our day to day lives. For several years I worked in Vermont during the month of January. Often during those periods the temperature in the early morning hovered around -12 degrees Farenheit. Even the yoga mat in the trunk of the car was frozen! And more than once, I would get stuck attempting to drive the winding mountain road and need to have the car towed out of a snowbank. My point about this is that when I then returned to New York City, most everyone I encountered was complaining about the unbearable cold weather when the temperature was in the mid-twenties. I didn’t feel cold at all; as a matter of fact I think I took some pleasure in saying that I thought it was balmy!
Consider how our experience as well as our body-mind perceptions of our circumstances contributes to this issue of relativity. If I hadn’t spent time in Vermont, I would certainly have been one among many complaining about how cold it was.
I realize that this seems relatively simplistic – I imagine you’re thinking of course that makes sense. But suppose you apply this concept to other aspects of how we order or relate to situations, ideas and relationships. For instance, the where and how you grew up, the place where you lived and the people with whom you shared your early years, are the basis for comparison later on. Again, of course. Well it might have been that you grew up in a remote part of the rainforest in Ecuador where your day to day life is dependent on the natural environment around you. Then you meet people who regard this environment of yours as a resource to be used but with an agenda that, relative to your way of being, is abusive and disrespectful. At the least, it would make appreciating their point of view very difficult. And, considering that the story they have lived by is focused on furthering technological development and doing whatever they can to support that way of life, it would be difficult for them to appreciate your perspective on the environment. Each of you looks at the situation from a relative position. There is a different reality for each of you.
Consider another story where you grow up in a poor urban environment with a family constellation that shifted many times during your early years. Perhaps there were often struggles for food, shelter and education. From this perspective, those that had a stable family and enough money to serve their needs might seem privileged in a way beyond your own options. They might not have much awareness of the circumstances in which you are living just as you may have a sense about how they live based on assumptions about how different they seem. Again each of you has a different reality relative to your circumstances and experience.
What I wonder is how the sense of “differentness” might be set aside to see/understand the other more clearly. Somewhere along the way, during the development of our species, we decided that our experience is THE ONLY REALITY or THE RIGHT REALITY. What we need to appreciate is that there are multiple realities and they are all relative to who is in it and who is outside. Perhaps the solution resides in each taking his/her own sense of reality a little more lightly so we can be more open to the reality next door. Relatively speaking, that is.