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May 14, 2011

When I was 10 years old, I had the standard annual eye test at school. They sent a note home to my parents that I needed my eyes checked by an eye doctor. Sure enough, when I went to see the eye doctor, it was discovered that I needed corrective lenses, and I got my first pair of glasses. I still remember looking at the world through those lenses and realizing how very much I had been missing. There were actually individual leaves on the trees, and the shingles on the houses had lines in between them! It was amazing, miraculous, and I couldn’t stop looking at the brand new world all around me!

We get used to seeing the world through our faulty perceptions. We don’t even know that our perceptions are faulty. And yet, most of our beliefs and perceptions of the world were formed before we were six years old. We often still see the world through six year old eyes, and sometimes our perceptions are near-sighted, sometimes far-sighted. Some of us don’t look far enough into the future, and some of us forget to pay attention to now.

I believe my eyesight challenge began with a perception challenge. I was crossing a busy street a few months before the exam at school, and I had been hit by a vehicle that I hadn’t seen, due to an obstruction to my vision. The driver brought me home, and my parents said I seemed fine but shaken, so he left. After he had gone, my father asked me what color the vehicle was. I could have sworn it was a dusty dark green. My mother thought it was blue, and my father thought it was red! How could we all have such a different memory of a vehicle we had just seen moments before? More importantly, how often does our mind play such tricks on us? That was my first realization that we all have our own perceptions of the world.

Years later, when in my mid-twenties, I decided to wear contact lenses. It was the first time in over fifteen years that I was not looking at the world through glasses. I had gotten used to my world being framed by the frames, with blurriness the norm outside the frames, and focus if I looked through them. When I put those small pieces of plastic in my eyes, and could see the world as clearly as before, it felt very strange, like something was wrong! Where was the frame? How could the world around me be so continuous? How would I manage to contain my view? A part of me actually felt frightened! But I was more determined not to wear glasses anymore so I persevered until a new norm was reached.

Sometimes, when a new piece of information comes into our lives, it makes us have to rethink everything. It reframes our world in a new way. Often, when confronted with something like that, people back away in fear. They don’t want their worldview to change. It’s comfortable seeing the world through a set frame. What happens when the edges are gone, and suddenly the world is bigger, vaster, more far-reaching than you thought?

Now, decades later, my eyes are changing again. It is more difficult for me to see close up than it has been. The details get lost. I had my contact lenses adjusted so that one eye sees close and the other eye sees distance. For the most part, my vision has adjusted very well to this. I hardly notice that they are not seeing the same thing. My mind corrects for it automatically. And yet, intellectually, I know that I am viewing the world through two different lenses at the same time.

How many times do we hold more than one point of view, holding two (or more) perspectives at the same time? In a way, this is valuable, as it enables us to see the other person’s point of view more readily, if we can view it from their perspective. It also comes in handy when looking at a situation if you can see it from more than one point of view. You can understand it more fully, get a more complete picture, and make more informed choices.

When I take my contact lenses out at night, the world becomes fuzzy, softer, and I stop focusing outside of myself quite so much.

In the same way, sometimes we just need to put the world away and just be with ourselves.

How do YOU see the world?

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