Thoughts: A Choice of Blindness

Venice

I am, I admit it, half blind. Maybe, if you do the math, a little more than half blind.

I have one blind eye. It’s no big deal. I’ve pretty much been blind in that eye since I was a kid. In the fifth grade, when we all got our first eye exam and discovered I could see light and dark and sense movement, but little more, they got a bit upset at me.

“Why didn’t you tell us you were blind?” the teachers asked in dismay. But that was my normal. No one had ever told me I was supposed to see out of both eyes. It was a revelation. After all sorts of tests, and trying the patch thing, and such, they finally gave up. They know why I am blind. They think, if anything happens to my good eye, that vision will come back in the bad one. They think.

And then there is age. I’ve gotten away with pretty good vision for a long time, but age takes its toll. At 62 I use dime store glasses to read. Cheaper than bifocals and a good thing. I tend to forget my glasses on trips and so I buy another set. At this point, I have a drawer of the things. They are scattered around the house. In the car. In most of my jackets.

I like to be able to see.

I have, I have learned, see color differently than most people. I certainly see it differently than my camera, which was praised in the reviews for its accuracy. When I go back to look at my pictures, inevitably they look dull, washed out, not nearly as vibrant as I see things. I even have a setting in my photo editing software to compensate. I have learned what setting brings out the vibrancy that I see, and I apply it to all my pictures.

I am somewhat the same way with people. I tend to see the best. It’s not that I can’t see people’s flaws. I can. But I seem to be slow coming to that seeing. It’s evidently a character trait, an almost flaw. When I went through my psychological exams to become a Methodist Pastor, it is something they actually warned me against. It would, they warned, get me in trouble. I would get hurt.

I like to think of it less as a blindness as a choice. I am the same way with places. I love old places. Restored. Half restored. Half ruin. I love them all. There is an atmosphere to the ancient and old that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It is, for me, almost otherworldly. Magical. Spiritual. (You can go get the men in the white coats now, if you like.)

If you travel through these ancient places, you learn quickly that few of them are totally restored. There is a dark underbelly of unfinished, uncleaned, raw places in each of them. Mostly, what shows is clean and lovely, what lies underneath is not.

Because restoration is expensive and hard. Mostly, these wonderful reminders of what was can’t afford a total redo. They clean and paint and restore what can be seen first, saving the hidden places for later, for when the opportunity comes to complete the work, for when it all comes undone and must be done on an emergency basis.

Venice is my favorite place in the whole world. I’ve always romanticised it, and when finally a few years ago I had the chance to spend a week there, I fell utterly, completely in love. Truly, if I could figure out a way to work and live there, I would do it. At various times in my life, I have looked for those opportunities.

It is beautiful, vital, full of history and music and art. It has an energy like no other place. It has a beauty that literally takes my breath away. As you wander the streets and canals, every twist and turn opens up another breathtaking plaza or sight. The sea plays peekaboo among the buildings when you walk.

But it is also a dying city. Venice is sinking. The seas are rising. In winter, many of the plazas flood and they build walking platforms for people to walk on, just inches above the water. Foundations are crumbling. In some homes, the first floor has been abandoned to the sea.

WHen you go to a place like Venice, you have to decide what is going to dominate your vision. The beauty? Or the decay? Because both are there. Everywhere. For me, it is the beauty.

It’s not that I am not aware of the decay. It is everywhere. The contrast between the restored and the rotting can be dramatic. But what I remember. What I love. What persists, is the beauty. The magic. The wonder. Today, years later, it colors my vision. It is part of my being.

People, I have come to understand, are a lot like Venice.  There is far more brokenness in the world than we like to admit, than we like to see. We live in a culture of cover-up. Hide the flaws. Everything is “Fine”.  Only, mostly, it isn’t.

Is that hypocrisy? Is it lies? No. I don’t think so. It’s restoration at work. And restoration is expensive, hard work. We tend to fix what shows first. Sometimes that is all we can afford to do. It is all we can allow ourselves to face, to fix, to repair.  So the front of the house is perfect, while the back of the house is falling apart.

Which do we choose to see?

I like to be able to see both. I think we can. But most of us are half blind. We see the beauty in people. Or we see the rot.

The woman I love calls me blind fairly often. Normally it comes when I tell her how beautiful I think she is, or pay her some other heartfelt compliment. But I am not blind. That’s what I see. That’s what I believe. That is how, whether I am with her, or a distance away, what fills my mind.

I choose to see the best. Because I understand restoration. I’ve been a ruin before. Broken. A rotted shell. Much of the last decade or so has been a process of restoration. Much of the work is done. Some parts are still raw and broken. I don’t hide either side. They are both a part of me. They always will be. Some things can be repaired. Some can’t.

I don’t hide either side.  And the people around me can decide which part to focus on. The work-in-progress restoration. Or the as of yet unrestored raw parts. Fortunately for me. most people seem to focus on the work-in-progress restoration.

That’s love. And love is not blind. It sees everything, but focuses on the beauty, the joyous, the amazing. It’s half blind. And it’s a choice, not a disease. It is grace, and without it, our world is not worth living.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

 

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