Perspective is an amazing thing. Its dimension has all sorts of elements—breadth, width, height, length, and many, many more. Listen to my story of perspective revealed during a bit of reading. You might find reason to pause and consider the impact of perspective on your day ahead.

As you may know, I read multiple books. Usually the only pattern to my reading is I try to spread the books across four or five centuries of the American experience. I read a book set in the 17th century, the 18th century, and so forth down to the 21st century. That means at any given point I’ll likely be actively reading at least four books, sometimes as many as six. 

For no particular reason, right now, two of my books are closely linked in the nineteenth century. One is about the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (Lee’s army). Another is a memoir of an officer (a colonel who becomes a general) in one of the divisions of that army.

In the historian’s book on Lee’s army, a work very recently published, I read that Lee struggled when he first came to command. He grappled with the poor condition in which he found the Army of Northern Virginia, its lack of discipline, order, and professionalism. 

In the personal memoir, written at least thirty years after the war, the retired officer describes what it was like to serve under Lee at precisely the same time covered by the historian. The officer remembers that a particular general was seen as harsh, unyielding, and authoritative. The officer recounted what he clearly viewed as episodes of the general’s pettiness and peevishness. 

The link between the two books—down to this very issue of instilling order on a disorderly group—was riveting to me. What one leader saw as vital and necessary was nitpicky and annoying to a follower (and leader in his own right). 

Think about the perspectives at work here. There’s an organizational perspective—one leader and one follower. There’s also the time perspective—in the moment it’s viewed one way, years later another, and still more years later still another. And then there’s the authorial or analytical perspective—seeing things more globally and as part of a sweeping issue instead of living in the daily and personal effect.

Perspective is a shifting yet constant part of The River.