There is a department store downtown where I live. It is a fairly upscale department store, and it is right next to the main station, where all the different lines converge. The department store has eight different floors, with different items on each floor. As is customary in Japan, there is a large supermarket in the basement, which has many delicious foods from all over the world. That is not what is interesting about this particular department store. If you’ve ever been shopping in Japan, or know somebody that has, having a large, multi story department store with a large international supermarket in the basement is nothing special.
What is particularly interesting about this department store is that there is a gigantic, and I mean gigantic, Ferris wheel on the roof. Not exactly on the roof, if you go to the ninth floor, you can board, if that is the correct word, the Ferris wheel and sit in the carriage as it takes it’s time to go round the large circle, giving you a splendid view of the surrounding areas, including the Seto Inland Sea.
It’s interesting the different perspective you get from seeing something from a different viewpoint. Sometimes I ride my bicycle from my apartment to downtown, and sometimes I take the train. Both offer a different and unique perspective of the journey. When I’m riding my bike, I have to be careful for traffic lights, pedestrians, and if I choose, I can take different routes. There are many ways to get from point A to point B in any city, as I’m sure you are aware. Different modes of transportation allow for different ways to travel.
On the train, however, I am completely limited both in time and in location. I have to catch the train according to the train’s schedule. If I am late, it will not wait. If I am early, I have to sit and wait. On my bicycle, I can leave whenever I want, take my time, and eventually get to my destination. I can even change my mind and arrive at a different destination that I originally planned. This is impossible on the train. I suppose I could go one or two exits past my intended destination, but then I would be face with the embarrassment of having a ticket with an insufficient fare. I would then have to pay the extra in coins. On a bicycle, I donâ€™t’ have to worry about any of that. I don’t even have to worry about looking at my watch. I don’t even need to wear a watch.
The train, of course, does have its advantages. It is air conditioned, which is nice during the summer. You can read a book or study philosophy or practice yoga on the way there. All of these are difficult on a bicycle. The train is a lot faster. You have the opportunity to chat to your neighbor on the train if you so desire. That is hard to do on a bicycle. I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden up next to a stranger and started a conversation, but it doesn’t usually work out very well. They tend to look at you as if you are a bit off. A train, on the other hand, provides a fairly easy way to do this. You can comment on a book she is reading, or take your time to exchange flirty eye contact, or even ask an innocuous question to open up the conversation.
But something really eye opening happens when you see all the possible train and bicycle routes from high above the ground. I’m not sure how many actual stories the Ferris wheel is, but at the top, it’s at least another five stories above the ninth floor of the department store building. It gives you a perspective that you normally don’t even consider when stuck down in the subjective experience of life.
Sometimes a great way to see a problem from a useful and resourceful angle is to see it from many different perspectives. The Japanese are famous for looking at their business problems from five, ten and even one hundred year perspectives. It gives them insight that can help them be really successful in the long run. Other people have told me that they sometimes ask themselves how they will feel about a certain course of action in a few weeks time. That sometimes can help them decide to do the right thing. Many people are easily tricked into only thinking about the short-term ramifications of their decision-making. For example, if you only were able to think twenty minutes into the future, you’d likely eat, drink and sex yourself to death. Of course this would be fun for a while, but when you think of what your life would be one year from now, it gives you a different perspective on things.
I don’t know if you’ve ever considered something like this, but what happens when you imagine your life thirteen or so years from now having taken this new idea into account. Does your life look better from thirteen years about? It’s interesting when you think about it, isn’t’ it.