Sunday, April 24, 2011

Differing Views: Not Black & White

Hooray! For once I have a clever link between my title and my post, just like Mindy McGinnis nearly always does. One of my greatest friends is both a science teacher and an artist, and she once noted something I found very interesting. Consider the following:

To a physicist, 'white' is the presence of all colors, such as white light broken into a rainbow by a prism.

To an artist, 'white' is the absence of color, a complete lack of pigment.

Their views are about as diametrically opposed as you can get. Who's right, and who's wrong?

That's the wrong question.

Try this one on for size:

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? From a scientific standpoint, it's definitely a fruit. From a culinary perspective, I'd call it a vegetable, because that's how it's used.

There are some things in life that can be worked out to 'right' and 'wrong,' but plenty of others that depend on your perspective and the circumstances. I'm all for being opinionated (and I am ... oh, I definitely am), but if you're so entrenched in your opinion that you can't even entertain a differing view, you're going to miss out on a lot. If nothing else, it can be a fun mental exercise to try to understand why the other person has the opinion they do. I may still disagree, but that's not the point.

Then there's writing—I wonder if it's possible to be a truly great writer without that ability. How can characters come alive and feel authentic if the author can't shift their perspective? (This presumes all the characters aren't thinly veiled carbon copies of the author ... because how boring would that be?)

And yet I've seen many a mud-slinging fight among writers that came down to one or both sides being unable to acknowledge that a certain topic may not have a right or wrong—just different angles.

If I ever fall into that trap, someone do me a favor and give me a nice Gibbs-style head-slap, okay?


Mindy McGinnis said...

Oh looky! I'm internet famous :)

I agree whole heartedly on the B&W issue - I think it's one of the best lessons I came away from my Religion major with. Moccasin walking is the best way to understand someone else - sure, they don't agree with me (which clearly makes them wrong ;) But why do they feel that way? Sometimes vehemently? Figuring that out makes life, and writing, much easier.

Joyce Alton said...

Well put. Besides, if all of the characters in your book felt the same way about everything, that kills 99% of the potential tension.

I was assigned a stance for a debate way back in junior high, that I didn't personally agree with. But--diving in, doing the research, preparing the arguments for that side gave me a better appreciation for people who felt that way. I did that stance justice during the debate (and probably made quite a few people wonder if I secretly felt that way about the topic.)

It can be fun to explore the other side(s).

Good post R.C. =)

Christine Murray said...

This is a really great post. It made me think, and as it's just after 5 am where I am that's quite the achievement. Oh, and I love your background!

R.C. Lewis said...

Mindy, you were already internet-famous, and you know it. ;) Who would dare disagree with you?

Joyce, I've never done formal debates, but I do sometimes step in as devil's advocate just because I feel *someone* should bring up that side. It's definitely a good exercise.

Christine, thanks! Sometimes I do my best thinking at ridiculously early hours ... but I can't let myself stay up that late on a school night. ;)