It’s all relative


I was visiting a close friend yesterday and something became acutely apparent to me.

I have known this friend for around 25 years now and have respect for him which is hard to quantify in words. He is a very intelligent, wise gentlemen and from time to time I have had the good fortune to receive some of his wisdom and perspective he brings to life.

Whilst visiting this friend yesterday, he became obsessed by the opaque nature of his windows in his kitchen. The focus of his attention appeared to be a slight layer of dirt or grease obscuring the view to what is a splendid garden.

This annoyance was made worse to him by the low winter sunlight streaming through the window which only highlighted the current imperfection of the glass. So to rectify this problem he proceeded to set about cleaning the window with the aid of a duster and some Autoglym glass cleaner.

The first attempt was pretty good and I would say 90% of the containments were successfully removed, however there still remained a thin seem of imperfection on at least two of the small square apertures to the outside world.

The two blemishes that remained were now causing my friend some serious and probably disproportionate concern, so he continued a second round of attack on the offending panes and this time he was successful in his attempt!

The thing is, this is a man who over his career has overseen projects of millions of pounds, directed huge teams of people to achieve great things in his working life. Although this gentleman has reached the age of retirement and yes suffers a little more than he used to with aches and pains, he still has a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer the world.

OK to a large extent it’s not a problem that his attention is shifted to something as trivial as an imperfect window, let’s be fair the windows do look cleaner after all. I think the key point here is that what is important to us is personal and most certainly relative to our current circumstance.

One part of me is envious that if a window can be so high on his priorities of concern then that can’t be a bad thing, which certainly beats the stresses of his full-time working life. Does it not simply ‘boil down to’ the fact that our obsessions and concerns are all relative?

Our focus of importance is similar to a camera lens. As we worry or become obsessed by something, that something is brought into sharp focus. Our depth of field is greatly reduced and so other matters loose our attention. This adjustment of our view of the world isn’t a problem so long as the focal point of our attention is genuinely important and brings proportionate value to us either in the satisfaction of the outcome or pleasure in some way.

If our chosen pin-sharp pre-occupation of clarity does not improve our quality of life, or impact others in a positive manner, then it’s probably time to pull-back from the back plate of the camera. We can then take a look at the wider picture and then refocus the lens of our attention to more important or worthwhile matters.

Referring again to my friend and his window cleaning. I don’t think it really is a problem I just want to make the point about relativity of importance. If the action of cleaning the windows brings satisfaction then that is great and it deserves the attention it receives. If it brings undue worry and concern which could be better spent on something else then it’s time to refocus.

One thought on “It’s all relative

  1. Perhaps free from the stresses and strains of corporate management, he was just ‘living in the moment’. Now simply able to enjoy that wonderful scene of naked trees lined up like black lace, on the backdrop of winter white sky.
    Of course leaving the dirt and smeared screen would have created yet a different momentary image , but one that has, as everything, now passed :-).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *