Being able to see with a broad vision or through a wide-angle lens can help us to accept situations and circumstances as they are, without becoming upset or wanting to change them. This encourages tolerance and nourishes compassion, which then inspires co-operation.
The ‘bigger picture’ includes all events and possibilities. It shows us that it is only when we are able to observe an entire system that we can fully understand its value and purpose. It takes a certain level of maturity to understand the past, the present and the future, and it’s often during the middle (adulthood) of our journey that we can reach this stage of awareness.
A system may be mechanical, as with the bus, it may be biological, like the body, or even environmental, as in the world in which we live. It’s when we can stand back from a system and see the whole picture that things begin to come into focus and make sense.
The River Thames, which flows through London UK, is a good example.
If you were to take a snapshot photo of the Thames River as it passed through the centre of London, you would see a wide, dirty river, full of mud and silt, plastic bags and even supermarket shopping trolleys and old tyres. If you showed this picture to someone in say, Australia, he would say, “G’day mate, your river’s a bit dirty, I wouldn’t like to take a dip in that, cobber” or something like that. He would think that the whole river is like that; according to the photo snapshot you gave him to look at.
However, he doesn’t know that the River Thames starts in a Gloucestershire field near Cirencester, about 175 miles away from where the picture that you showed him had been taken. At its start, it is a spring, supplied by water from deep beneath the earth.
Then, as it runs through the valleys of Gloucestershire, it forms a stream that joins other streams, gradually getting bigger with fresh clean, clear water running through the countryside of Oxfordshire.
At this stage, the River Thames is crystal clear, with plenty of fish swimming in it and wildlife enjoying its course. Birds and animals use it as their habitat and it is lined with trees and bushes for miles and miles. It’s a nice picnic spot for many during the summer months and plenty of people swim in it when the weather’s warm enough.
Our imaginary Australian wouldn’t see that as it gets bigger, it slows down and widens, until eventually passing through the centre of London, which is where he will finally recognise it from the picture that we gave him. After that, it continues to widen and passes through the industrial area of east London, probably gets filled with chemicals and waste, before it runs out past Tilbury and into the North Sea.
In time, the sun will cause some of the water in the sea to evaporate, rising up into the sky to form clouds. The wind will blow those clouds across to Gloucestershire where they will empty the water vapour as rain, which will fall onto the fields and replenish the water deep beneath the earth so that it can spring again as the source of the Thames River.
This is the Bigger Picture.
The snapshot is misleading, to say the least, as it only shows part of the river system.
The state of our consciousness now is also only a snapshot. The bigger picture is that once, like the Thames, our consciousness was pure, clean, alive, fast-flowing and vibrant. The state of our consciousness now is not the least help in being able to understand where we once were, or where we are going.
The bigger picture also applies to our relationships.
I know that I was distraught and devastated at the time I went through the divorce from my wife. I could only see that moment, i.e. the snapshot of that event. I did not realise at the time that that was exactly what I had to go through in order to be where I am now, i.e. happy and content. This is the bigger picture.
So you could even say that, in viewing the bigger picture, there is benefit in everything.
Look at the seasons. During the winter everything looks dead and, if you were a Martian landing on the Earth that day, you would think that it is always like that on Earth. Only when the spring begins, and the trees and plants start to grow again, would our Martian friend say, “Maybe it’s OK here after all.”
This is seeing the bigger picture.