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Jump Ahead of the Curve

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Throughout life, some of my best memories were the times I spent hanging out under the stars. I have sweet memories of childhood sleepovers in my parent’s back yard, big sky evening vistas in Montana, and wilderness white water rafting adventures with friends camping along the western rivers of our country. The magic of the night sky fueled my curiosity and imagination.

My knowledge of astronomy is minimal, but my pride in being able to identify the Big Dipper, the North Star and the Milky Way is solid. I know the Big Dipper. To this day, the first thing I do when I walk out at night is look up to see if I can find that one thing I know. There is comfort in the knowledge it is always there and that I can see it.

I recently started dating a man who is an astronomer and astrophotographer. The other night he took me to the Tanbark Ridge Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway and set up his telescope to show me the sky. Into his lens emerged the craters of our moon, the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, Rings of Saturn, and then he pointed the telescope towards my Big Dipper. There, on the second star down from the tip of the handle emerged an additional star that I had never seen before. I learned that what appears to the naked eye as the second star on the dipper handle, known as Mizar, is really comprised of two stars, Mizar A & B, that orbit around each other to form a novel Double Star, and was first seen through Galileo’s telescope.

It struck me then, that something I have known throughout my life as true, in reality was a little different than what I thought I was seeing and understood. It was still the Big Dipper, I could still go out and locate it in the night sky, but there was more to what I held as true.

The first Presidential debate on Tuesday night was hard to watch, and it got me thinking about life today and how our vantage points in the U.S have become so polarized. There may be two people looking at the same thing, whether it be Black Lives Matter protests, climate change, or how to protect ourselves from COVID-19, and our interpretations and understanding of what is happening, and what should be done, can be so incredibly different.

I believe that if we are going to re-unify our country, it is important that we open ourselves to the possibility that there is more to what we think we see and understand. And to go a step further, be open to the possibility that the things we held as true may be wrong. How can we begin to see things through another’s telescope, or to share our telescope with someone in a way that invites them to see more?

It is from this vantage point of openness and flexibility that we can really begin to listen to another’s perspective.  How amazing it would be if we could pick up a telescope and point it toward an individual or situation we do not agree with, or even downright abhor, and look through the lens to see what we may not be able to see with the naked eye of our individual perspective. And from this fuller vision, might we be able to break through the barriers that separate us and find ways to push through our fears and discover a path forward that works for all?

Wendy B. White is co-founder and partner with Continuum Consulting Services. She recently launched “Let’s Choose Love,” a social movement that provides a forum for sharing ideas, resources, new philosophies and stories that she hopes will challenge, stretch and inspire us to expand our thinking and possibilities for the future.

Special thanks to photographer Alan Davis