Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Hopefully, this post will fit the phrase "Better late than never."

I'm late writing today because we had several errands to run this afternoon, including a follow-up appointment for my DH at the ophthalmologist's office where he had minor eye surgery last week, and then a trip to the optometrist's office to pick up the glasses ordered for our youngest DD after our recent family vision checkup.

Both my oldest and youngest daughters now wear glasses, though our middle DD has been told she probably won't need glasses except possibly for driving when she's much older. I'm a little proactive when it comes to correcting vision, prompted by my own very much remembered experience with my first pair of glasses.

Like many children, I had no idea I was nearsighted--and neither did my parents--until the day I came home from school with a note that explained that I had failed the school's vision screening test, and that my parents should follow up with an eye doctor. Being the sort of child who hated to fail a test of any kind, I was disturbed and dismayed by the news, and even more dismayed when the eye doctor my parents promptly consulted confirmed the school's diagnosis, and recommended glasses to correct my vision.

Resigned to the whole thing, however, I picked out a pair of frames, and went back a week or so later to get the glasses. When I put them on for the first time, something remarkable happened: outlines became clear, treetops became individual leafy branches instead of vague green blurs, and I finally understood why my mother referred to the wallpaper she wanted to replace in our dining room as "Frogman Paper"--because what I'd seen as fuzzy grayish blotches were actually clusters of white flowers and leaves that, when viewed from a distance, looked uncannily like men in scuba diving gear.

My whole world snapped into focus. I spent weeks lifting the glasses up and down, continually amazed by all of the details I had been overlooking, or completely missing, due to what at the time was a relatively minor level of myopia. Any negative opinions I had had before about wearing glasses completely vanished as I realized how well I could see with them, and how much I had been missing without them.

So, as the two daughters who have needed glasses (so far) have reached the point where the eye doctor has begun to recommend them, I've gladly accepted that recommendation. It is so important to be able to see clearly, to be able to focus, to see what is really there, not what we assume is there because we've never seen the outlines.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Most of us have grown up in a world that likes to blur the outlines, to pretend that reality exists as overlapping shades of gray, that there is no black or white, no truth other than what the individual perceives to be true, no absolute values, but only situational ethics. In a word, we've grown up in a world that likes to believe that relativism is reality, and that the feelings of each person are the only valid measure of what is, and what is not.

Relativism is a very distorted sort of vision; it is an "I-sight" vastly in need of correction. Just as trees never had fuzzy greenish blurs at their tops despite my honest perception that this was the case, so too is it possible for someone's own experiences and feelings about a particular matter to be entirely wrong. There is no such thing as "what's true for me;" there is only Truth, and everything that deviates from that Truth will be either innocently erroneous or a guilty lie.

In politics, in religion, in public life in general, we are always dismissing the notion of truth as something which is entirely irrelevant to the lived experiences of individual human beings. But this is a terribly deficient way to look at the world, as though we were to tell all of the nearsighted people that their nearsighted vision was merely a valid alternative eye-style, and that the blurs and vague outlines they saw were an important and "affirming" part of who they really are. But not only would this be a lie; it would be a dangerous one, one which might cause physical, mental, and emotional harm to those who couldn't really see.

When we pretend that people can violate the truths written on the hearts of all men without suffering any consequences, we are not doing them any favors. Though some might pretend that this is the only kind way to act, it is not kind at all; it is diabolically cruel. It is as cruel as pretending that nearsightedness or farsightedness or any other vision problem was not a problem at all, but a "special gift" worth celebrating; something that not only should not be corrected, but something for which any suggestion of correction was proof positive that the person making the suggestion was merely bigoted against those whose eyes are different from the accepted norms of visual acuity.

Seeing my youngest daughter's delight in her new glasses and the new, clear perspective on the world around her they are affording her, I can't help but be glad that we don't think of visual deficiencies in this way. We shouldn't think of spiritual ones this way, either, not if we claim to be followers of Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No matter how much those who are mired in destructive ways of living might claim to be perfectly happy, we should remember that they are as mistaken as the nearsighted person who claims to see perfectly without his glasses. It is not our job to affirm them in their errors, but to offer, with patient kindness, the clarity of truth.

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