I told you a few days ago about my eyeglass adventures. I need a new prescription but to keep my cool frame I had to send the glasses away for seven to ten days. Since my only remaining pair is sunglasses, my visual life has two choices – dark and focused or light and blurry.
I’m on Zoom a lot with the Evolutionary Collective. No sunglasses since with them I couldn’t see the screen and people wouldn’t be able to see my eyes. Part of the time I’m in Gallery View, seeing anywhere from fifteen to forty-eight folks … fuzzy little rectangles. When I’m doing a practice with a partner, that person is large in Speaker View, and also is fuzzy. Not a real problem.
Watching tennis or a movie on TV, I need the focus, so on go the sunglasses. My living room, day or night, is pretty dark. Really only a minor inconvenience.
But something is happening to me over these days. More and more, I’m vacant, faded, dull. How very strange. I’ve enjoyed working on my physical fitness over the past few Covid months but I’m a universe away from hopping onto the ski machine downstairs or my bicycle out on the roads.
I’m not tired. I don’t have a headache. No nausea. No angst. But I am slow, especially mentally. There’s a floating feeling that’s not at all blissful. And the slowness is not a graceful dance. It’s a plodding.
There’s a sense of “Where am I?” without the wonder of spiritual mystery. It takes me back many decades (1985), spending two weeks in a Vancouver hospital with a heart condition. That time was far more urgent than what I’m experiencing now but there’s a parallel. I remember being allowed out of bed, and my room, to sit in a wheelchair. I was on morphine. Spirits floated down the hallway, moaning. Their feet never touched the ground. Their gowns waved behind them as they passed by. So slow the journey past my eyes.
Well, that sounds dramatic. No painkillers in the here and now. No see-through humans. But the same vague distaste. The same veil covering my aliveness. The same feeling of not being home.
I was watching a tennis match from the French open today. Martina Trevisan from Italy was battling Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands. At one point, just after Martina won an important point, she clenched her fist, bugged out her eyes and yelled “Forza!”
My mouth dropped. I stared at her. The power of the moment was immense. It surged through me via the TV screen. I tried to remember what the word meant. Maybe I should have just focused on the exclamation point in her voice. Google soon enough let me know the emotional English translation: “Come on! You can do it.” Force, strength, power.
I’ve spent years meditating, where the words (when I’m not in silence) are soft. The fingers are open, rather than balled into a fist. I’ve said to myself “That’s the energy I want to project – serene, compassionate, loving.” There is great beauty in that energy but today I also saw beauty in Martina’s passion.
We are so big, we human beings. As Walt Whitman said, “I am inconsistent. I contain multitudes.” What if I’m willing to give the world all of me, covering the world at times in a torrent of water, at others in simply a trickle. Today showed me that they both have their place.
Political life in this era of Covid presents us with some unbalanced personalities, some cruelty, and some ignorance of others’ pain. I’ve decided to go back in time to see if history can help. I looked for someone who could cross the decades and speak to us today.
Charlie Chaplin was a British comic and actor. He featured in many silent movies in the 20’s and 30’s. He was loved by some, ridiculed by others.
In 1940, Charlie starred in the movie The Great Dictator, a satire about Adolf Hitler, and a biting critique of fascism. The last five minutes of this film showed Charlie speaking to the audience, holding nothing back about the perils of the time. His words were embraced by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.
Here they are:
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost …
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!
My near and distance vision has been declining over the past few years. There’s no way I pass cars anymore since judging speeds, especially at night, is difficult. Tiny words on tubes and bottles might as well be in another language, and buying a magnifying glass has been on my “to do” list for months.
It was time to take action. I made an appointment with my optometrist. That appointment was today. The eye doctor is a genial fellow who’s got a vast array of high tech equipment. His verdict? “Your eyes have changed significantly.” Still … don’t worry, be happy. It’s an age thing. Okay, I’m getting up there. I accept the emerging realities of my senior life.
I headed over to Costco, the home of super-sized quantities and very friendly optical employees. The woman who greeted me was the same person who found my red and purple and yellow frame two years ago. She remembered me and my glasses. I ordered the new and improved lenses, but there was one tiny detail: my dear frame had to go off to Toronto or somewhere for about ten days. Hmm. Well, what can you do?
The staff member asked if I had a backup pair. No. Guess I’m not much of a backup person. I’ll just wear my sunglasses.
I’m several hours into my shortterm visual life, and there are things to say:
1. It’s dark
How strange. Everything I look at is muted. My lovely red EasyBoy chair is less red. The sky out there feels like an eclipse has moved in. My world feels lifeless, listless, subdued, tiresome. There’s a shroud hanging over things, and I can’t seem to remove it.
If it’s not number 1, then it’s …
“Just take off the sunglasses, Bruce, and the light will come back.” That’s true. But I can’t see the words on the white feather that’s in the soil across from me: “Dream on.” I can barely make out the birdies who are perching on my feeder. And writing this blog post is “by guess and by golly” until I move my eyes to a point six inches from the screen.
Physically is one thing
What must it be like in the heart of someone who’s spiritually dark or blurry? Where anger, fear and depression colour the day Or where all is muddled, disorienting and not worth the effort