2020

“…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

Depth Perception

I miss things occasionally…or find a logical spot for something I use regularly and then drive myself crazy trying to remember where I put it. Once, I spent half an hour searching for my glasses only to find them on top of my head. I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly about it; they’re titanium wire rims and practically weightless. But still….

A couple of weeks ago I tore several rooms apart looking for a favorite nail clipper which was not in its usual shallow drawer.

Without success….

So, I bought a new one. But when I went to deposit it in its rightful place, that lovely shallow drawer, I saw the old clipper resting in the spot the new one was to occupy.

Had my glasses been on top of my head every time I opened that drawer? Had my head even been securely fastened to my neck? Because I had looked inside that space at least twice a day during the weeks I was lifting sheets of paper and magazines, and shoving aside furniture to be sure the clipper had not lodged or dropped somewhere. Yet there it was, gleaming and ready.

And so I started wondering, what else was I looking at but not seeing? Missing entirely? What other hard, stainless truth was right in front of me, yet seeming, for all the world, invisible?

There ought to be glasses for that….

©2019 All rights reserved