— Michael Graf
For some, it might just be a simple margin, or a measure of difference from oneself. For others, it's more like an unwilling reality, reluctant to be acknowledged. But to transcend the narrow halls of left and right, or good and bad perceptions, is to face a world filled with puzzles, divisions and categories that all differ from the obvious.
Binary definitions are less relevant in learning about the world than a diversity of perspectives that can expand contexts and learning. Inside the theatres of advertising, identity politics, and persuasive rhetoric that have permeated every aspect of our lives, we often try to either leverage differences between us, or eradicate any notions that they ever existed. These efforts can manifest in weaponized views that everyone should be considered the same, 'willed' into one, ideal 'human' category. Yet in order to learn more about our perceptions, the act of acknowledging, categorizing, and shifting across differences remains a necessary human tool.
What the nature of Otherness suggests is a different approach to how we use these tools, not just for more simplified reactions, but for even greater varieties, differences and combinations of seeing. In building contexts, we begin to better acknowledge the relationship between the observer, observing, and being observed (a process that includes us in the role of each). Of course this pursuit can be an endless one, but its purpose is to illustrate what it means to navigate beyond rigid expectations into the realm of other thinking — whether wayward or not — while still learning how to judiciously reflect on them within our own lives. With an eye toward finding connections, the act of mixing contexts can only spark deeper insights into the tapestries of who we are. In the quest for what Helen Langer calls 'mindful' creativity, the capacity to expand on isolated, self-driven contexts is among the most valuable possibilities a mind can achieve. What the 12 degrees pose is an exercise that simply explores our contexts from ever expanding vantages. These perspectives are not only meant to entertain or appease, or draw ridicule and indifference, but help us in our developmental struggles.
Yet this can sometimes be a difficult exercise for those who don't wish to read, and without visual reading there are no new vantages to see from. Without other vantages, there are no new experiences to expand our thinking from. As a reading model, it propels us past the deep-seated grip of glancing ideals into the realms of other times, places and contexts. This remains an invitation to explore our worlds in ways that live beyond the immediacy of our own eyes and minds. So in these times of upheaval and difference, what does it mean to propel ourselves into other thinking when we often feel no need to? 'Other' remains a certain kind of openness, courage and at its core, a kind of love — one that simply hopes to become 12 degrees more wise to our bent, broken, and often wondrous nature.