“…in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort….” (From The Republic, Plato)

It’s hard to avoid the irony—the titular year of perfect vision, the unraveling of once reliable norms, political structures, checks and balances, civility in all arenas, the losses of loved ones and heroes to injustice and disease.

And it’s equally hard to avoid the comparison—between that titular year of sudden perfect vision, and the years of blurring and distortion, loss of sight preceding it.

That loss creeps up on us slowly. Colors lose their intensity, fading from brilliant to dull, letters spread into each other across pages and screens as poetry and prose and road signs seem layered with petroleum jelly. For a while, it’s easy to grow accustomed to, and comfortable with changes, a world smearing out of focus, and accommodate them with sharper lenses and adjusted habits. It’s easy to say we can deal with things as they are. We’re not missing anything truly important. We can still make out the big picture.

But then, one day, those street lights that come on at dusk glare at and confuse us, make us misread road signs. Or, the newspaper goes untouched because it’s too taxing to decipher small print. That’s when we realize how much of the big picture we’re not seeing.

I’m getting to that stage with my own vision, which has been on a steady decline for years. And I’ve been through enough cataract surgeries with friends and family to understand how startling sudden clarity can be.

More than one friend has related how shocked she was by her first look at herself after surgery. “I walked by the mirror, not intending to stop, then did a double-take after I caught sight of a strange image moving across the glass. I couldn’t believe the woman’s wrinkled up face was mine.”

For many of us, the severely clouded lenses that enabled our old lives and habits and beliefs have been stripped away, and we aren’t quite sure how to process and respond to the stark and painful clarity of new vision, or function with it. No matter which way we turn, no matter how well we think we’re adjusting, there’s always another flaw, another act of cruelty, corruption, injustice, bigotry, stupidity, selfishness, and there’s always another loss—of a loved one, or hero….

I wish I had words to ease the pain, fury, and helplessness over being assailed with such clarity, the harsh reality it exposes. But all I have is an increasing sense of urgency to more actively care for those I love, impress upon them the necessity of taking care of themselves and their loved ones, paying attention to persistent symptoms, scheduling life-saving tests, looking both ways when crossing the street, wearing a mask…wearing a mask….

That, at least, is a start.

Stay safe. Be well.

©2020 All Rights Reserved


Self-propelled car (Leonardo da Vinci)

I can’t see into the future. My vision, even with glasses, is lousy. So, it’s a good bet that what I would like to see happen in the coming year won’t. But, for what it’s worth, here’s my list anyway….

  1. I would like to see an end to the 24-hour news cycle.
  2. I would like to see pundits and hosts and correspondents and other news personnel stop qualifying their commentary with “sort of” and “kind of.” Nothing diminishes a statement’s authority more than this.
  3. I would also like to see dignity and gravitas return to news reporting. The cackling and snark are unprofessional, as is the unmitigated glee over misconduct and criminal behavior. Moving on….
  4. I would like people to stop saying, “Keep me informed,” when a friend says they are having a hard time, whatever the cause. A friend in trouble has enough to do. They don’t need to be further burdened by having to give status reports.
  5. I would like professionals who don’t know me to stop calling me by my first name, while simultaneously introducing themselves by their title. IT. IS. RUDE. If they want to be addressed by their title, they should show me the same courtesy they want me to show them.
  6. I would like all filmmakers to declare a moratorium on graphic depictions of people vomiting, etal. There’s a reason there are doors on bathrooms. Enough already.
  7. I would like to see robust music education programs back in every school. Maybe then composers can include tri-tones in songs again.
  8. And, I wish someone would invent a remote control that would instantly and irrevocably switch off bigotry…

But, of course, there’s little likelihood of that.

So, all I can do is wish that wherever you are, wherever you find yourselves in 2020, you will be blessed with a compassionate, temperate, and generous spirit, and all the respect, kindness, and support you need to see you through your good times, and your challenges.

Until 2020….

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