I recently spent a day in Yellowstone National Park with a good friend. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Yellowstone is in the northwest corner of Wyoming in the northern Rocky Mountains of the US. Yellowstone, established in 1872 by the US Congress, is the world’s first national park.
Over 90% of Yellowstone is undeveloped wilderness. It’s home to a large and varied animal population. It has 10,000 hot springs, fumaroles, and geysers, more than any other place on the planet. The world-renowned Old Faithful Geyser erupts every hour and a half or so.
Straddling the Continental Divide, Yellowstone’s 3,472 square miles include some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet: rugged snow-covered mountains, broad green valleys, wide sweeping meadows, sparkling streams and lakes, tall elegant lodgepole pines, and big blue skies that sparkle with stars in the clear cold night air.
In short, Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, preserved, thanks to the US government, close to its original wild and natural state. You feel really close to our Mother Earth in a place like Yellowstone, for this is our beloved planet in her finest form.
My friend, Ann, and I were strolling along a boardwalk meandering through one of Yellowstone’s hot springs areas. It was a cool and clear summer day, but if you strayed too close to the water, you got pretty hot and steamy.
Yellowstone, before it was known by that name, was visited by such famous figures as Sacagawea, Jim Bridger, Charlie Russell, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and many others. Including John Colter.
I started telling Ann about John Colter. Many of you probably don’t know who he is.
Colter was a member of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition from 1803 to1806. He left the expedition on its return east in1806, and became the first member of that legendary brotherhood soon known as the Mountain Men. He was the first white person to explore the northwest corner of what is now Wyoming.
Colter returned to St. Louis after a wild and dangerous journey that was to make him a living legend. He regaled the citizens of that city with his colorful descriptions of the places he’d seen. He talked of the amazing natural beauty, and of the steaming waters and gushing geysers.
No one believed him. So they started calling the place “Colter’s Hell.” Today we call it Yellowstone.
The point of this story is the good citizens of St. Louis judged “Colter’s Hell” to be an ugly, inhospitable place. And without ever having been there.
What kind of perspective was that? Well, none. Or, at least, not the proper one. How could they have an accurate perspective of something they knew little or nothing about? An uninformed opinion, yes. But real perspective, no.
And how often do we do the same thing? We frequently judge and criticize something or someone we know little or nothing about.
Colter had perspective because his mind had been open enough to explore the unknown. The folks in St. Louis had no perspective. Nor did they have open minds.
Which camp are you in?
Perspective–ah, that most elusive of human goals! Having perspective is often a challenge for many of you.
Of course, there is informed perspective, and then there is uninformed perspective.
We’re not talking only about “hard and fast” facts. But also about experience.
“Facts” often have little to do with a proper perspective. After all, you all create your own “facts.” What you define as fact is often simply a reality more than one of you agree on.
But there will invariably be many others who see your “fact” as a very different one than you do.
Experience is the real criterion here. It’s the only criterion.
Yes, you can listen to others, and you can believe or disbelieve what they tell you. But until you have, as you say, “walked a mile in their moccasins,” you cannot truly know their experience.
Nor do you have any legitimate reason for judging or criticizing another. That is, until and unless you have had the experience. And, even then, you will not judge or criticize. You willunderstand.
As you have heard us say so many times you’re probably sick of hearing it–you all create your own realities.
No two of you live in the same world. Oh, there are “facts” you agree upon. And that’s fine. But recognize that each person’s perspective is unique and special.
It would behoove you to honor all the different perspectives among your sisters and brothers. And it would behoove you to never judge or criticize another’s perspective simply because it is different from your own.
Only when you have “walked a mile in another’s moccasins,” can you even begin to know what that other’s experience truly means