A friend of mine, Leigh McGowan, was recently asked to write a book based on her blog, InCaseImGone.com, about her experience as a young mother who suffers from a very rare- and potentially fatal- disease called Pulmonary Hypertension. When talking about her opportunity to share her stories in this new book, this brilliant, courageous, humble woman asks me: “But why would anyone care about my perspective?”
The question rocked me a bit. Clearly people are interested in what she has to say, otherwise she wouldn’t be asked to do a book proposal. I think what my friend questions is what her unique life situation does to illuminate humanity as a whole when not many can relate to what she’s going through. But in my opinion, the more unique the perspective the more valuable it is to humanity.
Let’s say humanity- and all it represents (politics, religion, sexuality, eating habits, etc)- is wrapped in a dense sphere.
Based on where we’re born, what values we’re raised with, and specific events that occur in our lives, we develop a certain perspective on life, that is markedly similar to others within our own demographic. Imagine this viewpoint as an electrical charge connecting to an invisible outer sphere, which represents the “truth” about humanity. Every perspective is important as the only way we can fully see the whole truth is if, in theory, this entire outer shell is eventually illuminated.
The problem with, say, Americans being raised under such similar circumstances is our perspectives tend to shine in the same general area. It’s comforting for us to feel understood. We are drawn to the light. When one person challenges a popular view they are, at first, met with opposition until eventually like-minded people are drawn to this new light. Polarization occurs; two competing lights which, most likely, each have merit but are nothing without the other. People find comfort in the Republican/Democrat struggle because life is easy to define. But I’m sorry, I don’t believe in straight vs gay, black vs white. Humanity is much too complex to deny the many shades of gray, which only become visible by the residual glow from light reflected off areas we’re already familiar with. But how do we get all 360 degrees of illumination to shine brightly?
That’s where Leigh comes in. She’s not unique because she’s a woman, or because she’s from Canada, or because she’s a writer. A search on eHarmony.com will return pages and pages of similar matches. But one thing that makes her truly special is her struggle with this debilitating disease. Now throw in that she’s a mother who has decided to write letters to her son to say all the things she understands about life in case she doesn’t get a chance to explain them later. All of a sudden, a unique perspective shines brightly on the outer sphere, expanding the visible surface, and creating new gray areas. People are drawn to the light. Soon women, men, Canadians and Americans alike who have this same disease- or something similar- see aspects of themselves represented. The Venn diagram of their lives compared to Leigh’s is given credence as they now have a clear place in society. And they’ll be inspired to share their own unique perspectives that were formerly veiled in darkness.
The illumination of this entire sphere is a daunting, yet noble, goal. To Leigh… and to everyone markedly similar yet unique who will each get us closer to understanding humanity… I say:
“Write on, my dear friend.”