, Salem, MA


March 18, 2014

Watson: Our past and our views can blind us


Like each of us, Asher’s father knows how he has lived, has observed how others have lived and has drawn conclusions about what is effective, fair, sane, risky and healthy. The danger is that those conclusions will become walls that we use to keep out other ideas and ways.

If we aren’t careful, our past and our experiences can imprison us in a place where we can’t help ourselves. It is so easy for our pasts to convince us that our personal certainties are beyond questioning, beyond re-examining. One of the hardest things to do is look with new eyes at things and circumstances that we think we already understand.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who appreciated the extent to which humans can perceive only what they are open to, warned, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

I won’t tell you how the book ends. But before the sad conclusion, Asher’s father accuses him of being trapped by his need to make art. In reality, it is Asher’s father who can’t help himself. He is a prisoner of his past, his experiences, his fears, his expectations and his immutable perspectives.

Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at

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