What lens are you looking through?

Feb 26, 2021
Kemi Nekvapil holding a book

If you were one of the many ‘Weekly Words’ readers who responded to my ask about ‘Farm News’, there will be monthly Farm News!

It seems Farm News is wanted and needed, either as a reminder to hold onto dreams or to live vicariously through my farm lessons and learnings.

I am currently reading Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which is as equally challenging as illuminating.

The book uses the first colonists’ and European settlers’ written journals to debunk the myth that Aboriginal peoples were hunter-gatherers, but instead had economically sophisticated and settled lives.

Throughout the book, Bruce weaves in journal entries from the first explorers, who write of complex farming, harvesting, and water systems that feed 100’s of first peoples in their hand-built homes.

One particular story has stayed with me since I read it because it speaks to perception.

The story talks about a colonist called James Kirby who had arrived in Australia with the preconception of ‘the blacks.’

Kirby wrote in his journal of a sophisticated fishing method he has witnessed that involved detailed and precise engineering and was very successful, the efficiency of which he approved. But he wrote, “I have often heard of the indolence of the blacks and soon came to a conclusion after watching a blackfellow catch fish in such a lazy way, that what I had heard was perfectly true.”

Even though he had just witnessed a method he ‘approved of,’ he could not reconcile this with what he had heard about ‘the lazy Aboriginals.’

Kirby is of course, not the only one who has preconceptions about others; we all do.

I was working with a client recently who was struggling with the actions of one of her colleagues. “He is an attention-grabbing suck-up who doesn’t know the limits of his role.”

Sometimes a client needs to vent, and it leads to the main issue at hand; venting with boundaries can be a useful tool.

I asked her if she could think about any positives in his behaviour; she struggled with this, so I put a suggestion on the table.

“Is it possible that he is trying to do well in his job, that he is ambitious just like you are?”

There was silence.

“But he is too much.”, she responded.

“I understand some of his actions encroach on your work, and that is disempowering for you. What if you were to imagine that you have similarities? You both want to do your work to the best of your abilities; could that change how you perceive him?”

“If he’s not trying to annoy me on purpose…maybe I could sit down with him and redefine what each of our roles is so that we can both do our best work.”

Our session ended with her committing to having this conversation because her negative interpretation of him was not serving either of them.

We all have preconceptions of others because we all live with our particular lens in place.

We have to be willing to acknowledge the lens through which we see others because if we don’t, we live life with a tiny view of what is possible for ourselves and others.

And we all want to feel ‘possible’.


Kemi  xxx

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