No two people see the world in the same way, and that’s brilliant. When I was a (rubbish) English teacher, one of the first things I liked to show my students was how rare it is for texts to have only one ‘correct’ interpretation. Just like everything else in life, words and images are far more interesting when examined from different angles.
One of my favourite lesson starters was to stand in the middle of the room and tell the kids to draw me, without explaining why. (On reflection, it might have been better to get them to draw an object instead, as some of the pictures were quite scary!). Then we’d all wander around the room together and discuss why each picture was unique.
Each student had a different perspective, depending on where they were sitting, how far they were from me, how good a view they had, what else was going on near them, whether I’d told them off recently, and how much trouble they were happy to get into in order to make everyone else in the class laugh.
We’d move on to talk about films we’d seen and books we’d read and how different they’d be if told from the viewpoint of another character. I enjoyed those lessons, and I was reminded of them this week, when I saw an image on Facebook of a camel picture I bought in the UAE a few years ago – mainly because I like camels and I knew the colours would look good in my hallway.
What really interested me on the Facebook page was the message below the picture from the ladies at Peas in a Pod who created it:
Do you know the story behind our Multi Coloured Camel Picture?
The Picture is meant to represent Dubai – We are all different colourful people, we are different Nationalities living in harmony in Dubai. The camel facing in the opposite direction on the mount, is meant to represent the fact that we can’t stay forever and there is always somebody leaving!
Don’t let your friends leave without a Camel!
I’d never thought about what my picture might have been intended to symbolise by the people who’d made it.
In my head I’ve always seen it as saying, ‘Look at all those fancy-pants camels, thinking they’re making themselves stand out by fiddling with their appearance. Whereas the truly extraordinary camel is the one who walks his own path and does his own thing. Go, freak camel! Go!’
Perhaps there’s something in Anaïs Nin’s statement that, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
Have you ever thought you knew exactly what a picture/book/film meant and been completely surprised when you discovered what its creator was trying to say? Let me know in the comments . . .
*This post first appeared on www.GirlsHeartBooks.com