An Island Perspective

perspective: 1 the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point [as adj. ] : a perspective drawing. 2 a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view : most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective. • true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion : we must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s done.*

When I was in eighth grade, I took a class in mechanical drawing and learned to see objects drawn on a one dimensional plane in different perspectives.  In the same manner, living on this island has given me a different perspective of the world. My physical world has become smaller and my one time interest in the events of the rest of the world has dwindled to no interest at all. I have no need or desire to venture beyond the ten kilometers to Savusavu, north, or the five or so kilometers, east, for my morning walk. Except for my road trip last week to Labasa, I have not visited any of the resort areas or other parts of the island. I have my home, the beach right across the road, and wonderful unpretentious people as friends. I have adopted an Island Perspective of the world.

I realized this change last week in a conversation with Kamal. He has lived his entire life on either Viti Levu or Vanua Levu, the two largest islands of the Fijian chain. He was trying to get a perspective of the size of the United States.

“How long would it take to drive across the United States?” he asks.

“About five or six days if you drive twelve hours per day.” I replied.

He asked other questions about the United States and its geography and then surprised me with another question about driving distance. “How long would it take to drive from India to the United States?”

Kamal is an intelligent man who has never traveled outside of Fiji so I did not take his question as one of ignorance. His perspective of the world is based upon his world of Fiji. The world he sees from behind the wheel of his taxi. He knows of places like New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States because tourists from those countries visit here. He remembers things like 9/11 or the election of Obama but the rest of the world events are of little  importance. The rest of the world to him is exactly that, the rest of the world. It is outside of his perspective and has zero influence on his life. The world’s geography eludes him.

So last week when someone asked me as an American what I thought of Obama’s first term of office, I was briefly taken aback. I realized that a topic on which I would normally have commented no longer held any interest for me. I had no comment because I no longer cared about the political situation in America. Being up to date on world events no longer is a point of reference for me. I no longer read the New York Times as I once did every day. I remember my walk on the beach and realize how much my sense of proportion has changed in the last 100 days. It is almost as if my life started with my arrival to the island. Whatever past existed seems washed away with the tide and my biggest foray into the future is my next step or sometimes thinking about what I will fix for dinner.

My physical world has become smaller and I am very content with its new dimensions. If an object or event is not in my immediate field of reference, it has little or no importance. I no longer need to examine things from every possible angle.  My only tie to a past is the friends and family I left behind but in true perspective they are right here with me, sharing my island world.

*Source Credit: New American Oxford Dictionary