Sunday, December 3, 2023

Having a More Meaningful Perspective

Gary Osmundsen

By Dr. Gary Osmundsen

As a teacher at Grand Canyon University, I like to use GCU’s Coach Bryce Drew’s incredible shot in a basketball game to teach my students an important lesson about the relation between values and perspective.

Back in 1998, Coach Drew played for Valparaiso, a 13th-seeded team, in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. They were up against Ole Miss, a fourth-seeded team. With just 2.5 seconds left in the game, something amazing happened that led to Valpo winning against the odds. It all began with a long pass from one end of the court to another, much like a Hail Mary pass in football. Jamie Sykes threw the pass to Bill Jenkins, who then tipped the ball to Coach Drew. Despite the tight time, Coach Drew managed to make a 3-point shot right as the buzzer went off. This incredible moment, known as “The Shot,” made Coach Drew part of one of March Madness’s most unforgettable memories.

Now, let’s consider something important: While this play was beautiful and unlikely, it wouldn’t be remembered as one of the greatest March Madness moments if Valpo had lost the game. It’s crucial to understand that the success of the shot was valuable – in and of itself – like most successes. However, the outcome of the entire game decides whether this amazing shot gains even more value. Indeed, how the game ends significantly affects how we view the entire game. Hopefully, this helps illustrate the importance of what philosopher Joshua Seachris calls “the proleptic power of narrative endings.”

Prolepsis means something is shown as existing now before it actually happens. So, the idea is that how a story ends can go back in time and add more value to an earlier event. Think about some of your favorite stories or movies. I bet that how the story ends greatly impacts how you see, feel, and understand previous scenes and the movie as a whole. Again, if Ole Miss had won the game, Valpo fans would have felt very differently about Coach Drew’s shot and the game in general.

The good news for Christians is that we know how the story ends. Death doesn’t have the last word. God will ultimately conquer evil, and a new heaven and earth will bring perfect harmony, justice, and happiness forever (see Rev. 21).

The Christian narrative also includes a time when Jesus will assess how we lived our lives on earth. This future “awards ceremony” (see 2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25) can help us recognize the hidden value in our daily struggles.

If we think about the value in our struggles both now and in the future, it can give us a healthier perspective. For starters, it can significantly enhance the value, purpose, meaning, and motivations behind our actions involving relationships, work, and personal growth. Therefore, it can greatly influence how we think, feel, and understand our present experiences and circumstances (all the ultimate value we’ve accumulated will one day be rewarded and experienced!). Indeed, with the right eternal perspective, it can significantly increase our ability to flourish!

ED. NOTE: Gary Osmundsen was born and raised in Erma, and is a 1993 graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School. Before pursuing a career in academia, he worked at Sig’s Dock – a family-owned commercial fishing business. Osmundsen is an instructor of philosophy at Grand Canyon University’s College of Theology in Arizona.

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