Monday, February 06, 2006

Blurred Vision and Rays of Light

I went to the eye doctor today (first time in a long time), and had those drops that make everything blurry for a few hours afterwards. So, I took a walk. Then I practiced music (Irish traditional music – no need to look at music for that, because this kind of music is learned by ear). Then I listened to some recordings of good Irish flute playing.

Several hours had now passed. My eyes still were blurry.

It was very disconcerting, actually. It showed me how much of my waking life is spent looking at text. I felt very lost being unable to read or write for such a length of time!

Even finding friends to hang out with and chat with was hard, because everyone is so busy all the time!

I took another walk. It was now dark out. Because my eyes were not yet back to normal, the street lights and car headlights had these amazing rays shooting out from them in all directions. It was beautiful, in a wild and surreal sort of way.

So this experience had me take a new “look” at my life and the kind of world I live in.

Now I revel in my newly regained clarity of sight. I notice the miracle of sharp vision with heightened awareness. I look at my looking, with new eyes.

But even so, I feel a sense of loss as well. (And might every gain bring also a kind of loss?) By regaining my "normality," I lose the special perspective that "abnormality" offers.

For several hours today, I had a good excuse to step aside from my usual routine, and could be forgiven for not being "productive." If my friends or colleagues had seen me wandering about, squinting oddly at the lights, I could have explained, and they would nod, and remember, yet not be able really to relate, and they'd scurry back to their own busy lives, leaving me on the corner squinting at the lights, and I'd feel both left out and relieved. I'd watch their vanishing blurry forms, no longer myself being able fully to relate to them either. "What's all the fuss about? Why all the rushing?" Surprised by the new ways that light shimmers when my eyes do not sharply focus everything, I vividly realize that things are not always what they seem. And, I experience my own being in a new way.

Here I am, immersed in light. The light has rays, that people usually cannot see.

But tomorrow, with normality restored, the usual will be expected of me again. The rays already, in fact, have retreated back to invisibility.

But I know that they are still actually there.


  1. Okay, I'll bite. I would say the answer is "both", as you have intuited.

    To choose is to kill. That is, you kill all the possible choices except the one you made.

    This can make the act of choosing a terrible existential burden to some people. I have a very dear friend who can become literally paralyzed by the prospect of having to choose, because he fears that act of killing his potential actions.

    The way I see it, however, is that, in a sense, you are free only after you have chosen -- free of the weight of all the choices you didn't make. So choosing is a little less fraught for me, luckily.

  2. "To choose is to kill." Oh no, you are making it worse for me! I am much like your friend, who finds decision-making difficult! Now I understand why! :-)

    I try to console myself in this way: in many cases, to deny one possibility in favor of actualizing another doesn't necessarily kill the denied possibility completely, but maybe postpones it -- keeps it alive as possibility for a future date.

    But this is not always the case. Sometimes actualizing one possibility turns another now into impossibility. Sigh.

  3. "Sometimes actualizing one possibility turns another now into impossibility."

    I guess the problem, or the koan, is to figure out how to be okay with that. Yes, if you have merely postponed other possibilities, that is one thing. But if you must choose among incompossible choices -- then you must choose, and kill what you do not choose.

    For me, making that kind of choice tends toward a feeling of freedom, because I have chosen, and now can act toward fulfilling the choice I have made, without feeling obligated to act toward fulfilling any of the other ones!

    For example, right now I am waiting to hear back from several Ph.D. programs to which I have applied. Once I know who's admitted me, and have weighed my options, I must choose -- but then I get to roll forward and do things like look for housing or get relocation quotes or ask about health insurance or help my wife look for a job. I can't do any of these things until the choice is made! And I am very much looking forward to the moment when I can do them -- which is after I've chosen, and killed the other choices.

    Am I making sense?

  4. Yes, you are very much making sense! Thank you for sharing your insights!

    And I wish you well regarding the Ph.D. programs! I hope you end up having many good options from which to choose!

  5. Just checking back into this post, many weeks later --

    I did not wind up having to choose; I got in to precisely one Ph.D. program. This is a little humbling! Still, I got in to the one I REALLY wanted to be in... so all is well.

    Now I am, as I thought I would be, 'rolling forward' and preparing to relocate. It is... exhilarating. But sad, too, in that I am finding the many little blessed connections I have made here in Los Angeles, and as much as I may hate it here, it will be hard to tear up those fragile, beloved roots.

    Hope all is well with you.

  6. Congratulations on getting into your favorite program! That's excellent news! It's very hard to get into Ph.D. programs, so to get in -- and into your favorite -- is really great. You only need to get into one!

    I wish you well in your transition to your new life. I personally loved graduate school, and I hope you will love it too!