After doing a bit of yard work, I sit outside with a cup of water and take off my glasses. The detailed canopy of the trees vanish into a dappled canvas of sunlit and shadowed verdant greenery. The paved concrete of the front porch smooths to a friendly and simple texture. The hawks that circle my property become elusive and mysterious, and their ringing calls become a pronounced orchestra with the sighing wind and rustling leaves. Everything is perfect as I relax into my earned rest.
Sure, along with the hundred other ambitions that whisper and mutter in my meditations, I could look to get eye surgery and fix my bad vision. I could get contacts too, and come closer to the ideal vision of man I’ve been taught to aspire to. I could try to do something about my receding hairline since I’m on a diet anyway that might remove my excess weight. Some nice tattoos focused on aggression or perhaps stylized versions of my culture might help. I should go get some teeth-whitening gel and buy a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger to inspire me while I work out. An entire world of machismo and masculinity awaits me, if only I save up for an expensive car and make sure my electronic devices stay at the top of the line. Fashionable footwear, yeah, and perhaps some sports jerseys so I look more virile as I push my son on the swing.
But I can’t be bothered just now. With poor eyesight, the people with recent haircuts look just like the unkempt people. Extra definitions on biceps aren’t visible and all the tattoos look like charcoal smudges. The cars that whizz by look all nearly identical, and all their modifications of frame and color worth thousands of dollars are lost on me. I am distracted by an orchestra and can’t help but see the un-mowed yards as prettier than their well-maintained cousins. Everything is smoothed out, and it’s only the biggest variations that appear to me with my glasses off.
When I regain corrected vision by putting my glasses back on, all the little details will pop again into existence. The difference between a Honda and Hyundai will re-emerge. The ill-fitting suit of that business man will contrast with the custom tailoring of this other one. I will again have culture and discernment, and perhaps then I’ll be stirred into obsession over my own details.
So I leave them off for a while longer. It usually only matters that I wear glasses when I have them on. Without them I can’t perceive what the stylish people spent three hours this morning to accomplish. But the beauty of the forest is clear without the details, so as they walk by with their Nikes and brand jeans I still appreciate them… but no more than the others dressed in thrift-store finds. Their beauty comes in motion and smooth interactions with the others. Their beauty comes when there is no aggression and they belong to the painting of canopied treetops and blue sky.
Only when I can see clearly, do I know the false struts of ego and competition. When I can’t see, I can’t know the positioning of men in their status symbols anymore than I can perceive the rattlesnakes amid the cacti at the top of the hill on my property. I must rely on buzzing and rattling to know danger, which sounds can only be heard in stillness. I must relax into an assumption of openness and community in the family park as much as in the untamed land.
When I get up from my break and put my glasses back on, it all pops back into visibility and I again know how much yard work I must do. I again see that the cars need washing and that the pavement needs patching. So I return into the stream of improvement and effort, into the arrangement of details just so. But as I rise to resume work, I wonder whether my corrected vision is truly superior to my natural sight. I wonder whether I mask a gift from God to play the games of men.