Bill Lyons used to write sports columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Once in a while, he would digress, and write columns that he called “Random Thoughts and Second Thoughts”. They were columns about random things and events.
I loved those columns. I loved that he wasn’t bound by the traditional format of a 1500 word article about one particular idea. His newspaper allowed him to “noodle”. In jazz, they call it jamming.
When I was seven years old, my parents found out that I needed glasses. It was the classic glasses story-I was sitting in the back of the class, and then I was moved to the middle, and then to the front, and then a note came home from the teacher- “Hal can’t see a ^$#(#* thing!”
A few days later, I left the opticians with new glasses. Donald Davis Opticians, on Castor Avenue. St. Patrick’s Day, 1968. I have no idea why I know that…except that it was a big deal in my life.
I remember looking across the street….and I saw trees. For the first time, I saw leaves on those trees. I had no idea that I had been missing anything. Leaves- individual leaves.
Why didn’t any of you tell me that you could see the leaves?
Eyeglasses are a big deal for me. They are almost as important as oxygen. My vision, uncorrected, is about 20-600. I really can’t see anything without glasses.
About 5 years ago, due to events beyond my control, I also needed glasses to read. Bifocals, they called them.
I know that I need a new set of glasses, when I start taking my bifocals off in order to be able to read.
I have a new set of glasses on order at the opticians right now. When I put the new glasses on, I will have the same experience with leaves, and with reading. That “oooohhhhh, I can see now!” experience.
A new perspective.
Apparently, eyeglasses were invented in the 1200s. And Benjamin Franklin gets credit for inventing bifocals in the 1700s, although the true inventor is in dispute.
What would I do without them? I imagine I would be selling pencils on a street corner someplace. In the times of cavemen, I would be launching spears off target.
Lou Gehrig, New York Yankee in the 1920s, was known as the Iron Horse. He held the record for most consecutive games played (2130) until the record was later broken by Cal Ripken Jr.
Lou Gehrig developed a disease (ALS, also named after Lou Gehrig). He retired quickly, and delivered a famous speech in front of Yankee Stadium. Watch it online if you’ve never seen it.
He talks about perspective. He says that some people think he got a bad break. But he thinks of himself as “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.
My friend Bruce and I speak about perspective frequently.
Often it starts with me complaining about my awful, terrible, no good, really bad, miserable life.
I once told Bruce that I wanted to hit the lottery.
He told me that I already had.
He reminded me that, largely due to an accident of birth, I have clean drinking water, food in my fridge. Education, a car and a job. A family that loves me, friends who care about me, a dog who adores me.
You get the idea.
Bruce is a terrible person to talk to when I want to complain.
Glennon Doyle Melton, author of “Carry On Warrior”, has a website, Momastery. Go check it out.
She recently wrote a blog about “Perspectacles”. Kind of like what my friend Bruce has to say. That she has a great life, and just needs to re-adjust her glasses in order to see it.
She noted that she doesn’t need a new kitchen. She just needs a new attitude about the kitchen she already has.
There is a popular candy bar commercial right now. It says “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry”. In the commercial, someone is angry, they eat the candy bar, and then everything is groovy.
I’m that way with sleep. I am not myself when I am sleep deprived. I get cranky (well, crankier than usual). I take a nap, and then everything is like harp music and angels singing. The world looks like a different place.
There is a lady who cuts my hair. “Cuts” isn’t really accurate. My hair is like a scouring pad. “Re-shapes” is more like it.
She also re-shapes my attitude.
We have a running dialogue. She shared with me that someone shared with her “Gina-you know nothing”. Nothing?
The point was- that things are not always the way they seem. Or as I once read on a bumper sticker, “Don’t believe everything that you think”.
So when I plop into the chair for a hair re-shaping, Gina says “Hal, you know nothing”.
I have blind spots. Things I don’t know. There are things that I know that I don’t know (like how to fly a plane). And things that I don’t know that I don’t know.
One of the first things I ever said (as I have been told) was “I can do it myself”. Typical toddler stuff. I can do it myself. That works fine on toddler stuff. But it doesn’t work very well on adult stuff.
The opposite of “I can do it myself” is “I need help”.
There is something in our culture that discourages people from saying “I need help”.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, let me tell you- I need help. I need help with a lot of things. (If anyone read “Can Openers”, you know that already).
I often need help with perspective.
Years ago, a rock band finished a song with the following spoken line…”you may be the light at the end of someone else’s tunnel”. Aerosmith, if you must know.
You may be the light at the end of someone else’s tunnel.
There is a fellow in my community, Terry.
Terry walks up to me sometimes, and calls me “Sensei”. Sensei means “teacher” in Japanese. It is said with the highest regard. It is said with much higher regard than “-san”, like “Hal-san”, which means “Mr. Ward”. “Sensei” really implies mastery.
Now in the interest of full disclosure- when Terry calls me sensei, he often bursts out laughing. I don’t think I have mastered very much in this life.
But once in a while, someone lets me know that I have been a source of perspective in their lives. A light at the end of their tunnel.
I wrote a few weeks ago about Monet, and the Cathedral of Rouen. About how Monet would paint several paintings of the same subject, but that each painting looked different. Different perspectives on the same subject.
My backyard is covered in snow and ice and muck right now. I am going to call it (are you ready for this) The Backyard of Ruin. (Get it? Cathedral of Rouen, Backyard of Ruin? Come on, that was funny….)
My backyard might look like a ruin right now, but in 4-6 weeks, things are going to be sprouting all over the place. Crocuses first, then daffodils. Then the tulips start to show, along with forsythia bushes. The weeping cherry starts to pop, and the neighbor’s magnolia tree and dogwoods burst into bloom. Days later, all of the azalea and rhododendron bushes explode, and my yard looks like a Monet painting.
So what is my outlook going to be today? Ruin, or Monet?