Behind-the-scenes programs show how movies are made. They reveal green screens and special effects that can take an audience to new worlds and exotic places. For decades, Hollywood has teased us with brief glimpses behind the curtain to see how the magic is made. One trick-of-the-trade used in both movies and in theme parks is called “forced perspective.” This is a technique which makes an object appear larger or smaller than it actually is. For example, an artist can make a three-story building look like a skyscraper, or an illusionist can make it appear a person is cut in half.
Growing up, I was amazed to discover how every major secret of Harry Houdini could be learned by going to the public library. From making an elephant disappear to escaping the water torture tank, the mysteries of the greatest magician of all time was illustrated in detail. When someone asked me to share the secret of an illusion, I usually would jokingly say “a good magician never tells a secret.” But the truth is, more times than not, the secret is a forced perspective.
While recently watching a documentary focusing on the special effects of Star Wars, I was challenged to recreate a process that is used to make something small seem like an out-of-this-world landscape. The picture you see next to this article is the result. Where in Florida might I have taken this picture? The answer: on the beach. But what about the mountains and cliffs? There are none. What you are looking at is actually a three-foot-long piece of driftwood. There is zero manipulation, editing, or photoshopping of this picture. You have just experienced a forced perspective.
Forced perspective often leads to forced perception. The media uses forced perception regularly. They can take something that is small and make it look big, or something that is big and make it look small. Parents use forced perception on their children. Teachers use forced perception on their students. Leaders use forced perception on their followers.
Sometimes this is a good thing. Sometimes this is a bad thing. But ultimately, it is up to us to decide what we magnify to others, and more importantly, what we magnify in our own minds.
In one of the most popular of all Bible stories, Jesus is walking on the water when Peter asks if he can get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. Miraculously, Peter begins walking on the water. But then, Peter starts focusing on the wind and the waves and immediately begins to sink. The moral of the story isn’t to pretend as if the wind and waves do not exist. Troubles are real. Life is filled with challenges. The “secret” is learning not to magnify the wind and the waves. It is easy to focus too much on the challenges of life which can cause us to sink.
It’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill (or a mountain out of a piece of driftwood). Unfortunately, people only see what they want to see, and people overlook what they want to overlook. When flying on a commercial airline, you shouldn’t totally ignore the flight attendant reviewing safety procedures, because you may experience an emergency one day. Nor should you become nervous and constantly rehearse in your mind the plane going down in flames or crashing into the side of a mountain. There is a healthy way to approach potential challenges without magnifying the danger.
Usually, when it seems your entire world is on fire, it’s not. It’s only a forced perception. Yes, a few trees may be on fire, but we have to step back and see the whole forest. Try taking a few minutes today and listen to Louis Armstrong sing “It’s A Wonderful World.” As you listen closely, you can actually see the wonderful world he is singing about. But is such a place real or just an illusion? That all depends on your perception.
Rick Moore is Communications Pastor of Destiny Worship Center.