17:9 vision

image

I have reading glasses. I have reached a certain age and my body’s ability to contract the muscles in my eyes sufficiently that I can focus close up, has all but gone.

I used to have what is referred to as 20:20 vision. I don’t know what that means really. My long sight is still superb, but gone are the days I can read the ingredients on a jar without help.

I’m typing this on my phone, so find myself peering down my nose through my reading glasses, looking up and over them when I need to, to see what’s around me or to pause to think.

Two seats away, a man is in reverse. He has glasses too, but is clearly short sighted and is peering over his spectacles at a phone held three inches from his nose. He pushes his glasses up to see me.

Across the train gangway, two men are watching programmes on their tablets. One, a subtitled film. His device is on his knees and he is watching through spectacles. The other, watching Top Gear, has no visual aids but is holding his tablet less than six inches from his nose,

My point is, how we see clearly is different. As it is in our everyday lives.

Some struggle to see what’s under their nose. Some see the bigger picture, but the close up details are blurry. Some like to examine closely. Some only see what they want to.

In life, we don’t have 20:20 vision. We can see some things clearly. Others we are blind to. Even in ourselves. In the mirror, if you will. We are just as blind to others too.  To their value, their outlook, their thinking, their struggles, their joy, their feeling, their intent, their magnificence.

We all need glasses… we just don’t know it.

drawing life’s curtains

Have you ever noticed that dusk brings a particular behaviour for a short period?

During the day, we exist in our offices or our houses, with curtains wide open, blinds pulled up, shutters flung back. The light inside and outside in balance somehow, we seem open to the notion that people might look in, might see us. And that’s ok. There’s a form of equilibrium. Equality of visibility in this balanced light.

Then dusk arrives. We turn on lights inside our homes and offices. But we leave curtains and blinds wide open. The result is the light is stronger inside than outside and people can see in. See us more clearly. We are silhouetted in the artificial lights. More visible. More exposed. So people look, sometimes stare.

Then we draw the curtains, drop the blinds, turn the light off maybe. In essence we hide. Perhaps too exposed now, we retreat, away from prying eyes. And so it stays, until dawn, when we throw open the window ‘shields’ and allow natural light to flood in, safe in the knowledge that we can be seen again, but not clearly seen, not highlighted, not in the spotlight.

And so the pattern repeats.

Maybe it’s like that in life?

Happy to be seen when we blend in, when the light of others equates to our own light? Maybe though when we are in the spotlight, highlighted, more visible, we seek to hide? We set out to draw a veil over ourselves, to become more private, more introverted? We quite literally pull down the shutters.

Instead.
Shine your light.
Hold lightly the sight of others in the soft light.

 

facing ourselves is the hardest direction to look

not looking at ourselves
It seems like we stand in the centre of the world.  In the centre of our world.

From this place we can observe all. See sights. See situations. See people. Be drawn towards. Turn away. Fit.

From our vantage point, with our map of the world as the world should be, we can assess everything, place a value on it, judge it. We can rank things, place them in hierarchies of choice, want, need. We can compare this external vista of things, people and their actions with our perception of right and wrong, good and bad.

And we do…

We critique the behaviour, choices, necessities of others. We glance at the unsightly homeless person from the corner of our eye, thereby maintaining a dignified separation. We wince at the teenager’s language and lack of respect in the street, like we skipped that life stage. We place the drunk man in a story, a story of our own creation, so that we can explain his ‘condition’. We assess the parents and their actions towards their screaming toddler, like frustration, tiredness, learning are all experiences we have never had or at least have always handled better. We gossip about the neighbour and the affair we think they’re having, so that we can stay in the ‘moral’ club through our action of placing them in the ‘immoral’ one. We whisper with colleagues about the boss who seems oblivious to the impact of their actions, because there is safety in collusion. We mutter about the Sunday driver who meanders when we’re in a hurry to be somewhere, like they have no intent or purpose.

That person is good, this one less so. We’re OK, because they’re not. How can he do that? Why is she so…? Why don’t they…? I wouldn’t do that. Who wears that? Does she know what she looks like? Really … pink? Why doesn’t he wash his hair? Another holiday!? Why can’t she just say? He’s a waster. She doesn’t realise what she’s doing to him. Amazing, awful, not good enough, disgraceful, shameful, good heavens…

We all do it, every day.  It comes easy. Too easy.

Maybe because in our map of the world, our view of right and wrong, of good and bad, we can be exonerated? We are innocent. Never guilty. We are successful. Never a failure. We are ethically and morally just. Never wicked.

But maybe facing ourselves is merely the hardest direction to look?

 

the emergence of the selfie

looking at self
What gets a lexicographer up in the morning? Where does the energy come from?

Maybe the advent of new words? Maybe the evolution of old ones?

Selfie is a new word. This sudden penchant for capturing ourselves against our current environment. Looking at ourselves in our context. Getting an arms length perspective. Using a selfie stick to get even greater perspective. To see from further out. To fit more of our situation in.

Our desire to share these 2D representations of self in these static snapshots of life, is curious. We seem strangely reluctant to show ourselves in living 3D, in reality, as we exist in the world with other human beings. Alive. Both beautiful and beautifully flawed.

Of course we have always had the ability to look at ourselves from the outside. Inside our head. Long before technology gave us the ability to record an image, many of us did that in our mind’s eye. Imagined it. We see ourselves in that awkward conversation. See ourselves in that meeting where we were criticised. See ourselves in that beautiful moment of joy, of fun, of love.

Our mind’s eye has an important advantage over the selfie. We are not limited to the current moment. Not limited to a selfie snap and a hard drive of past experiences captured in still reflection. Inside, we can do this imaging, this ‘selfie’, for our future too. Imagine our own future. Our upcoming holiday. Our new home to be. We can manipulate the image – past or present. Make it brighter, more colourful, turn it around, zoom in or out. Take parts out, add parts in.

Take a mental selfie now of where you will be next week, next month, next year.

Perspective and context are crucial to our humanity. They allow us to see possibility, to reflect, to dream, to make sense, to know we’re ok.

Click.

Remember too though that living, sharing, enjoying reality in the moment are more deeply human. Share the gift of you, now, in glorious living technicolour. Not just in smiling, staged, two dimension tomorrow.

Don’t just take a selfie. Be one.

Lexicographers – let’s add ‘be a selfie’

What’s the next act?

front stage back stage
So … I’m reading the Theory of Human Ecology.

Now, before you raise your eyebrows or quietly tut in that knowing way, or maybe steel yourself to slap me on the back and declare ‘well done that man!’… I should let you know it’s only the ‘Brief Introduction to the Theory of Human Ecology’, a mere 112 pages.

There are many interesting concepts therein – I confess to liking a concept more than a theory – so I thought I’d share this one…

As we know Abraham Maslow first documented the most basic of human needs is to be safe; we know that experiencing being unsafe or afraid can leave long standing memories in us. One of the concepts discussed in this paper is the idea of having a ‘front stage’ and a ‘back stage’ as one way in which we can manage personal risk and keep ourselves safe.

Our ‘front stage’ is the version of ourselves we show to the world. We develop it to gain acceptance and to belong, to retain the audience’s interest and maybe even get a round of applause sometimes, or at least a polite clap.

Our ‘back stage’ is the bit of ourselves we keep hidden away – it’s where we do our rehearsals, our script writing and where we keep our costumes and props. We don’t tend to let the audience backstage – only those we really trust.

By developing a front stage and a back stage we keep ourselves safe in an inherently unsafe world. It allows us to show the world what we believe we need to, in order to be accepted, affirmed, welcomed in. Meanwhile that part which we need to protect – our vulnerability – we keep hidden away from harm.

A nice theatrical metaphor…?