Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Arbitrary Nature of a Sign

Late one night, a man gets a call from a close friend, who says, “I finally did it: I bought the Ferrari. I am going to drive it for the first time tonight, and I wondered if you would like to ride shotgun.”

“Of course, I would.”

So the man waits by his window until he sees the new sportscar pull up at his curb. He grabs a sweater, then runs and hops in the passenger seat. It is a cool summer evening when the two of them begin racing through the residential neighborhood and then to one of the major arteries in town. The speed limit is 45, but they are doing 75 and feeling rather comfortable with that until a light a block ahead turns red. The driver hits the gas and speeds through the red light at 90. His friend screams, begging the driver to stop, but he keeps going and makes it through the intersection safely.

The passenger turns to him and asks, “What are you doing!?”

“It's okay; my brother drives like this all the time.”

They proceed, when another light turns red ahead of them. Again, the driver floors it, and the car passes through the intersection at 100 mph. Now the passenger is truly terrified, so much so that he nearly ruins the apholstery. And he screams in his fear, "What are you trying to do, get us killed?"

“Hey,” the driver replies, perfectly calm, “it's okay; my brother drives like this all the time.”

Again, a red light ahead: the driver accelerates. About a half-block from the intersection, the light turns green, and the passenger breathes a sigh of relief, but the driver hits the brake hard -- so hard, in fact, that the car fishtails, then turns sideways, rocking back and forth on the lip of the intersection.

“Now what?” asks the confused passenger.

“My brother might be coming.”
We can all see the same sign but read its meaning very differently. Our own perspectives color or distort the meaning of what we see. In fact, many times we will never know the truth because our perspectives distort so much that it is impossible to see it as it actually is.
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