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A Higher Perspective
On the faith that there's always a better view available.
Hello everyone! Greetings from Ventura. Marika and I have been planning a few trips to the mountains this summer. Daydreaming about all of the high-elevation beauty in our future has me reflecting on a short essay that I wrote as I was falling in love with living in the mountains. This is from the early days of IHD, published four years ago next week.
I’ve also come across a quote recently that tells of the much broader implications of the ideas in this essay. Computer scientist Alan Kay on seeing problems from a different angle:
“A change of perspective is worth 80 IQ points."
A Higher Perspective
I recently moved to the mountains. I live above the 8,000-foot elevation and frequently hike, run, climb, and mountain bike above 10,000 feet.
I am always struck by an indescribable wonder at such great heights. Everything seems more expansive and I cannot help but feel light and optimistic. I am not the first to report such a positive shift from a visit to the mountains. This effect is more than the obvious awe of the vastness of your surroundings. At higher elevations, the horizon is literally lower. When you stand several thousand feet further from the center of the earth, you can see further around its curvature. The landscape beneath you and the sky above you both appear grander.
A simple shift in vantage turns an otherwise ordinary landscape into a stunning vista.
Everyone should take trips to the high mountains as frequently as they have access. The effects on mental health and overall happiness are without comparison, but this is more than a case for mountain life. Understanding how elevation can shift our perspective of our surroundings teaches us an important lesson about how to view life’s circumstances.
When you are in the depths of a bad situation—illness, familial conflict, the end of a relationship, loss of a job, depression, or any other dark place that seems to shrink the walls around you—it is often impossible to find any light or optimism in the world. But to pass through a dark time, we must always maintain that the world is full of light, even if (and especially when) it does not seem to shine on us.
In these moments, we see the world from a lower elevation, sometimes so deep it’s like trying to take in your surroundings from the bottom of a well. But just because we are incapable of seeing them does not mean that beauty or vastness does not exist around us. Seen from a higher vantage our surroundings would appear entirely different.
Moving higher shifts your perspective. At the lower point, it’s difficult to see that any better outlook exists. While it does not make the climb out any easier, remember that any change in perspective will motivate you to continue climbing.
All we can do in these moments is begin to climb, however slowly. With each incremental move higher, our horizon recedes into the distance, revealing all the beauty we knew was there but could not yet see.
Recommendations for me?
I’m nearing the end of Walter Isaacson’s incredible biography of Ben Franklin. In the last year or two, I’ve made an effort to read more memoirs and biographies and would love your recommendations. Please comment or reply to this email. Thanks!
Life is too short to be normal!