“From the one comes the two, from the two comes the three, from the three comes all things,” says the old Zen saying. It is like the old Donovan song, “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…” These point to a set of powerful insights. Let me take just one of those insights, perhaps the most potent of them all and unpack it just a bit in what follows.
We exist in a world driven by digital thinking: “right versus wrong” “day versus night” “test versus no” “on versus off” “good versus bad” etc. This form of thinking see two polar opposites and mistakes them for “reality.” Yet, in truth, “right” versus “wrong” are only the two opposing tips of reality. There is the larger field of possibility of which polarities are only pieces of the whole. It is our fascination with and deep attachment to polarized positions of thinking and acting that blinds us to the integrative power of the 3rd perspective.
The 3rd perspective is the holistic vantage point of seeing not only the two “goal posts” of the digital perspective, but also the greater analog universe of the field between them, the stands that surround the field, the people in the stadium, the stadium within the city and the city within the context of the world within an expanding and mysterious universe. In other words, stepping back and up to a larger perspective that realizes that polarized thinking is only a tiny fraction of reality. We can use our imaginations and greater perspectives to be more innovative, open, transparent and vulnerable to the mystery of existence.
The 3rd perspective is the integrative field that the great Persian Poet Rumi is describing when he says, “Out beyond the sense of right and wrong is a field. I’ll meet you there.” So a few tips on how to cultivate and begin developing your capacity for the 3rd perspective:
1) Whenever you are offered a problem or attempted solution and it is described as an “either / or” – a binary set or digital way of thinking, step back and ask, “What is the 3rd perspective on this, the larger context that we are NOT considering by focusing so narrowly on these two options?”
2) Ask, “What If the way we are viewing this situation or problem or challenge is flawed – what if this is a ‘failure of imagination’ by focusing too narrowly on what is before us and what we can do? What is the 3rd, integrative perspective we are missing?”
3) When looking at a situation or challenge or problem, notice how often you drift into a digital way of thinking. Stop and notice the two polarities that you see so clearly and BE CURIOUS – cultivate a greater sense of curiosity and the willingness to EXPLORE a 3rd way of looking at the situation that encompasses both of the polarities.