Living somewhere other than your home country can broaden your horizons and present you with new perspectives. And if you allow yourself to get immersed in the local language (s), you could be in for a real opportunity to learn and grow. While living here in Norway I’ve picked up a number of expressions that have helped me to see things in a new light. One of these expressions is the phrase, “Det går an å ha to tanker i hodet samtidig. “In English: It’s possible to have two thoughts in your head at the same time.
This was one of those phrases that just really resonated with me and functions as an explanatory model for how we humans experience life and opens up for many exciting possibilities. It can mean that you can have two (or more) competing ideas rattling around in your brain at the same time and that you simultaneously see many of the advantages and disadvantages of each; and that others also have this capacity.
I’ve also interpreted it to mean that we are able to see two or more perspectives at once. In the preparatory work for the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the committee responsible for the main draft work struggled to find common values that would underlie the UDHR. Many religious and non-religious philosophical traditions were discussed. One that stood out to me well came from the representative from China, the Confucian philosopher. PC Chang suggested the idea of Ren or two-man mindedness as a basis for human dignity; the ability to see things from my own perspective and at the same time from your perspective.
A spin-off of the two thoughts idea is that humans are capable of having two or more motivations for why they act the way they do. I often try to remember this when I’m tempted to attribute negative motivations to those I don’t like or who have done things I don’t like. Maybe things aren’t as cut and dry, black and white as I think they are. And perhaps I need to give people the benefit of the doubt or at least acknowledge that they might not be purely evil in their intent :-).
If only I were able to do be more mindful of several ideas at once, of your perspective in addition to my own and that you may be motivated not only by negative impulses, but also positive. Perhaps the world would be a little bit better if I were in tune with these thoughts more often.