Fourth-Person Perspective

For research purposes I often play video-games. When given the option, I usually select a first-person perspective for piloting my avatar. It’s more immersive and I find it easier to control – plus the added intensity helps to hold my attention. I AM the character – doing what must be done. Whereas in third-person, I feel like I’m helpin’ the guy out – he’s the character, not me. But the downside of being in first-person is the intensity – if my character loses, I lose.

It got me thinking about a possible fourth-person perspective. I couldn’t find much written about the concept. One game, a few years ago, had the player make changes to an onscreen-character’s environment which influenced the actions the character took. And in writing, I heard the 4th-person perspective described as a collective viewpoint: “we” – personal and omniscient all in one.

I often switch up my meditation tactics. Recently, I noticed how hard it was to maintain a goalie-like reactive stance while meditating. Just waiting for thoughts to come made me a sitting duck – I was at the mercy of an onslaught of thought. Therefore, I actively pursued a “destination” in meditation. With my eyes closed, I intentionally stared at the mottled formlessness, the waves of hue and light, the pixels underlying all. I did so until I no longer had to fully focus my attention, I was there.

It worked in the sense that I felt like I reached a place of pure potential, dreamlike, where I left my body behind. You might say I attained a fourth-person perspective. I was beyond the intensity of “I”, beyond the demanding nature of “you”, and beyond the sympathetic viewpoint of “he”. Perhaps it was “we”. We are not just a body, a thinking mind, or even pure awareness – we’re that, plus whatever lies beyond – we’re also an influencer of what we experience.

Maybe the spiritual goal is to reach and sustain this fourth-person perspective. Get beyond the ego, beyond the avatar, beyond the narrative – encompassing all, yet limited by none. Think of a cake: a cake isn’t merely a collection of ingredients (which are measured and mixed into something far beyond what their individual nature suggest). A cake can have significance, representing much more than consumable calories. Perhaps the fourth-person perspective recognizes all this.

To exist in this perspective, is to be removed from the intensity, aware of the narrative but not lost in it, and free from the boundaries of imagined limitations. In the fourth-person perspective, of what importance or weight are those tiny thoughts originating from “I”? “I” is only a fraction of “we”. The process of babysitting thoughts and managing tantrums-of-the-mind loses significance when measured against this grander transcendent journey.