Today, my new glasses arrived. I am in that stage of life where my sight is shifting. Since my earliest memories, I could not see further than arm’s length. Without glasses, my world is blurry. In the past few months, I have noticed that something was changing and after testing, I learned that I need two different prescriptions to successfully move through life. I could not help but think about all the analogies that could be made between my transition into this new lens and the ways that my progressive-lens-on-life correspondingly affects and effects my movements and choices. I am struck by the irony here.
My eyeball, I have learned, is probably too long, or my cornea may be too curved and that is why I have always been nearsighted. Now, as I am getting older, things are not as tight as they once were (my eye is not the only place this can be observed) and this creates a need for a smaller prescription for things which are close.
45 years has shifted my gaze…literally and figuratively.
I remember the year of the Bush/Kerry election. I was so far left at that point that I (honest-to-God) forbade my children from trick-or-treating at homes with Bush signs in them. Our new neighbor across the street had one and I was just certain that they were not worthy of giving my offspring candy…wow…was I ever self-righteous!
It ended up that those neighbors were great. They were eager to get involved in making our community better. They hired my kids to babysit for them and really cared to get to know them in ways that lots of the ‘progressive’ families who hired them never did. We both ended up moving but we are still in touch all these years later and the folks that got them as neighbors next are so blessed to have them.
I was stuck in my short-sightedness and my presumptions enough that I though I could sum up a person’s character from no more information than a piece of cardboard on a stick in their yard. Luckily, life provided lots of experiences that poked holes in my narrow worldview and I learned that when you assume, you really do make an ass out of you and me….
We may look different, vote different, sound different, smell different, cook different, sleep different, parent different, spend different, on and on…but at our core…in our deep, deep middle where our heart and mind and instincts all bundle together to make us humans who love and want to be loved….we are not really all that different.
Before I got my first pair of glasses, I used to squint my eyes to try to bring things into focus. Now, I have to move things closer or further to do the same sort of adjustment. I think that is a transferable skill. I think that taking a second look at folks and shifting our lens a bit will help to clear up some cloudy views. I think that we can rely on more of us preferring to be connected, liking a comfy bed, caring about our kids, worrying about our parents, being afraid of the dark, being inspired by nature, hoping for peace….than not.
We are at a place in history where it is so tempting to pile onto one side or the other on any issue under the sun. Pundits prey on our competitive nature and rally for us to take the side that looks like it is winning in a verbal sparring that we are supposed to think is news. Division is the tactic-of-choice for just about every platform out there. Let’s not be so easily manipulated. Let’s put on our progressive lenses and shift when we need a close examination but be comfortable when a longer view is called for. Your perspective does not have to be a threat to mine just because it is different. The danger comes when I push it so far away from me that I can’t understand anything about it. The more I stick to just my own kind, the scarier other kinds are and the scarier I become to other kinds…..
When I used to wake up in the night without my glasses, I remember being panicked that I would not find them and that I would have to walk across my room to the bathroom with blurred vision. Reaching out to touch the back of a chair was terrifying because my mind would twist and try to make me think that it was a person hiding in the dark. Groping for the doorknob, which I opened many times a day each and every day, felt so unsettling because it would surely be covered in spiders or snakes or some other awful thing this time because they wait for nearsighted-girls to take their glasses off so that they can trick them. All of this was because my sight was reduced to a scope which spanned barely past my own nose. I was the only safe thing that there was because I was the only thing that I could identify and safely rely on.
This is a metaphor for life.
This is an experience which we have all had.
This is absolutely understandable and yet so very dangerous.
We can not stick to the view that only goes to the tip of our finger tips, no matter whose finger tips they are. That is a prescription for division, isolation, fear, ignorance, hate….
Get your progressive lenses out. Squint when you need to. Try to see beyond your biases and preconceived notions. The shouting and finger pointing of the recent news-cycle is discouraging for most of us. Find someone you don’t really know much about and have coffee with them. Stop into a church of a different faith and see how they do things. Travel to a place that stretches you. Talk to a stranger and try to really listen to them. If we each did more of that, we would see that those imaginary-threats that we conjure up are really just doorknobs and chair-backs…..or more than likely, the blurry-image will sharpen into focus and end up being someone’s mom or brother or cousin with lots of the same thoughts running through their brain as ours.