If you want to see, then begin to see how you see. – Eric Micha’el Leventhal
I am legally blind. My vision, at the last count, is 1200/800 or something equally scary. I’ve worn glasses since I was in fifth grade, the kind with lenses that can be lethal to an ant on a pavement when focused at a certain angle. I had a brief affair with contact lenses back in college, but after a night of carelessness followed by a scratched cornea and an entire day spent wrestling with the possibility of being actually blind and not just legally so, I ended that relationship pronto.
The point is, I can’t function without my glasses. These lenses enable me to see the world as something more than blurred colors. Without them, I can’t drive, use my computer, get on the correct bus, pick a food item from a fast-food restaurant menu, read without looking as if I’m about to fall face-first into my book, or look at people without having them think I’m extremely annoyed with them for some reason.
I’ve just recently realized that I’m not just wearing a physical pair of glasses. I’m also wearing a kind of mental pair of glasses over my inner eyes. The way I perceive and interpret events, situations and people—and the way I subsequently feel about them—depend a great deal on the lenses I am seeing them with.
Case in point: Driving. When I’m driving and another driver cuts me off, my usual response would be best summarized as “$#@! @#^$@#!! &#$#5!!!”
But I’m learning apply a kind of slow-motion replay to my reactions, seeing how I go from getting cut off in traffic, to thinking “this guy just took away my rightful place on the road and caused me massive amounts of inconvenience,” to feeling an entirely justified anger at this egregious violation of my rights/personal space/territory. I perceived and interpreted the situation while wearing my glasses labeled “there is not enough insert-good-or-resource-here, so I’ve got to secure my fair share and anyone taking my fair share from me is a total jerk.” In this case, what there weren’t enough of were “road” and “time.”
Then again, when I really think about it, “there is not enough road” is plainly ridiculous. It’s not as if the guy who cut me off rolled down his window and pulled the road up behind him, depriving the rest of us of a flat surface to drive on. “Road” is an entirely renewable resource; there is enough road to go around. As for “time,” I was on my way home and wasn’t in such a rush, anyway. Besides, if it did happen during rush hour in the morning, my Hulking out about it would not give me additional minutes or reduce the probability of being late for work.
And if I was inconvenienced—well, we were all inconvenienced in that particular situation. What makes me so special?
My physical glasses are corrective lenses, making up for my slightly too-long shape of my eyeballs and giving me 20/20 vision. Wearing them makes me a better person, in terms of visual ability and acuity. But I’m starting to realize that taking off my mental, emotional and psychic glasses—my unconscious beliefs, attitudes and expectations—would produce the opposite effect.
Without my mental glasses, my inner vision would be 20/20, and I would see reality exactly as it is.