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Vail Valley Voices: Matter of perspective

Connie Woodberry
Vail, CO, Colorado

There is a scene in the first Crocodile Dundee movie where Mick Dundee encounters a gang intent on robbing him.

The gang leader produces a knife and tells him to hand over his wallet. “Give him your wallet,” his lady friend says. “What for?” Mick replies. “Because he has a knife.” Mick’s grin and response says it all: “That’s not a knife. This is a knife,” as he produces what we in Australia call a pocketknife. (Australians, like Texans, are prone to backwards exaggeration).

As a scene in a movie it has become iconic, but I am not sure how much thought people have put in to considering why.

My take? It is the perfect lesson in perspective. Our perspective, shaped by our life experiences and life view, creates our unique sense of knowing and also shapes our decision making as we contemplate the best course of action.

This perspective also adds to our understanding of new situations and new places. Sometimes it affords us an insight into a more useful way to look at things. Sometimes it can even avert disaster. It can lead us into a dark alley but also give us the insights into finding our way out again.

The same situation was experienced by Mick and his lady friend, but with two different perspectives and two very different possible outcomes.

I enjoy the privilege of having two homelands, Australia and the USA, two countries with unique perspectives.

This vantage affords many benefits, but there are negatives as well. As an outsider, one can be seen as someone who finds it too easy to throw stones and find fault. After all, how could one possibly know anything about this new place?

One may be excluded, too. Often, but thankfully not always, encountering the silent treatment makes it clear you are an outsider. But there also is clarity from this position, seeing things from, well, a different perspective.

A good example comes to mind, an incident that happened a few months ago now, which left me with a lingering feeling of loss. It was at a deserted gas station on Highway 6 that we stumbled upon while trying to find access to the river.

It was an interesting old gas station with an obvious history and while, I admit, I have very little background knowledge of this particular gas station, I do know that it represented a past that many people still make a pilgrimage to reconnect to. Returning a week later to have another look, I found it was gone.

Now this is not to say that my perspective is correct and that there weren’t a hundred very good reasons to see the end of that gas station. After all, maybe handing over the wallet so to speak, was the most sensible thing to do, but I do wish that before it was gone I had had the chance to offer my perspective and maybe a different solution.

There are many people like me here in Colorado. People from somewhere else who live and work here, who have brought their far-flung perspectives to the valley.

When you go on to consider the perspectives of the people who have lived here for generations and then put the second-home owners into the mix, we can either look at it as an impossible task to consider all points of view or as an opportunity to see a place more clearly.

Building on the perspective of the locals as well as the “ring ins” like myself, can and in fact does create a healthy mix of viewpoints and experience, and an asset that adds to the understanding and indeed evolution, of special places.

By now, if you have been reading my articles, you will know that we — meaning my husband and I and our small business, along with a group of highly knowledgeable and even more intuitive and creative people — are on Sept., 25-27, presenting Elevate/Vail 2012, the global symposium on creating and sustaining special places.

Attendees and faculty include local people as well as many from other places, other countries and other cultures. It will be interesting to discover just what they will make of this place when they bring their diverse perspectives to three days of discourse and insights into the issues which impact special places and as they confront the particular responsibilities special place makers, caretakers and leaders bear.

And it’s not just my view. Other people besides Mick Dundee and I concur that considering things from a different perspective is important. After all, a mind is a good thing to open.

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?” Isaac Asimov, “I, Robot.”

Connie Woodberry is the CEO of Regional Breakthroughs Australia and Elevate LLC in the United States and is undertaking a doctoral research project on special places. She can be reached at constance@elevatesymposium.com.


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