8 Jun 2015

Seeing red

'Open your eyes and then open your eyes again' (Terry Pratchett)

After my last optician's appointment I spent an interesting 60 minutes wandering around town waiting for the fluorescein dye that had been dripped into my eyeballs to drain out of my head again. As instructed I didn't put another set of lenses in until an hour had passed. As not instructed, I didn't bring my glasses so had nothing to correct my naturally rubbish vision until the hour was up. I had a brief, uncomplicated to-do list, enough loyalty stamps for a free Coffee#1 and the resolve not to waste any time just because my whole world had temporarily been Gaussian blurred. I would just take my time. And only cross the road if I was really sure nothing was coming.

The whole process went remarkably smoothly. I selected a few little birthday presents for Madi, posted a parcel for work and stocked up on hair dye, toothbrushes and sellotape. I didn't walk by and ignore anyone I know (I don't think) and crossed the road twice without get hit by anything. Before long an hour and 10 minutes had passed. Yay! I used the bathroom of the coffee shop to put in a new set of lenses, exchanged my voucher for a free latte and started reading one of Madi's new books while I drank it. Within a few pages I realised the book was too old for her but decided Jackson would like it instead, and even if he didn't, I absolutely loved it and would carry on reading it.

I walked home, appreciating the renewed detail in my life again and feeling vaguely accomplished- I haven't set foot outside my own front door since the age of 11 without glasses or contact lenses, so completing a to-do list (however un-demanding) while wearing neither of these AND not being squished by a bus is a really cool thing.

The book I didn't give to Madi is called The Giver and after finishing it, I thought back to how poorly I could see when selecting it from the shelf in WH Smith, my nose 3" away from the back cover as I read the blurb... (Spoiler alert - stop reading this now and read the book instead!)

The story concerns 12 year old Jonas, who lives a seemingly utopian life in his Community. Life is uncomplicated and peaceful and like everyone else in the Community, his choices in life are overseen by the Elders who ensure the smooth function of society by means of restricting variation, referred to as Sameness. Early on in the book, Jonas describes a strange incident that happens while he and a friend are chucking an apple back and forth between themselves: the apple momentarily changes appearance while in mid-air. This happens repeatedly, but only fleetingly and Jonas lacks the words to describe it accurately. Later on in the book after a few similar experiences, his mentor, The Giver, works out what is happening to him: Jonas is beginning to see the colour red.

The people of the Community can only see in black and white. The peace and structure that Sameness brings has cost them many things, including their perception of colour.

How tragic. This is one of the reasons why Madi would hate this book. And one of the things that fascinated Jackson and compelled him to keep reading until waaaayy past his bedtime then appear in our bedroom at midnight, clutching Mr President and announcing he was too sad to sleep.

So... in our world we do have colour. And millions of people around the globe have their world brought into focus everyday with prescription glasses or contact lenses or laser surgery. After my blurry 70 minutes in town the other day I am even more thankful for access to trained optometrists and the means to correct our view of everything.

But what if, as per the inhabitants of the Community, there is actually more to our surroundings than the way most people perceive them? Just suppose that 20/20 vision is actually not perfect eyesight after all? What if there's depth and vibrancy and substance to everyday life that is on display constantly - but only for those who want to open their eyes and see it? Just say God is intrinsically involved in the world he created and loves and his fingerprints are really actually everywhere? Like a kid who's been painting and wanders off and touches stuff without washing his hands - leaving traces wherever he goes.

This changes everything.

Jesus then said, 'I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretence of seeing will be exposed as blind.' (John 9:38-40)

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: Because you've never used them before. (The Matrix)

Open our eyes open our eyes open our eyes, Amen Xxx

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