We’ve had some conversations in the office lately about vision. Lots of aspects of vision – the forward-looking kind that gives us goals and motivation, but also the physical kind – the kind you enjoy when your eyes and all their related parts – nerves, brain cells, etcetera – are doing their job well. (Pretty amazing stuff!)
I’m fairly sure that vision is my favorite sense of the physical ones we are blessed with. Thinking about it reminded me of a story – a small experience I had long ago, but one that felt significant to me. I thought I’d share it here:
It was a sunny day in Boston. Lunchtime. I was walking down the street in the shopping district near my office, past cute little shops, eateries, and utilitarian places like CVS and the local bank. Then I reached the monolithic pair – Jordan Marsh on the left, Filene’s on the right. So similar, yet so competitive. Like the difference between all natural vanilla ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream.
I was on the Jordan’s side, walking at my usual brisk pace. But of course I managed a look at their huge window displays as I went past. In just a few paces there it was – a window arrayed in exceptional beauty. Mannequin’s wearing the latest, loveliest, gorgeous fashions; other elements of the display providing context in harmonious and beautiful color schemes. It was delicious. Lovely. Though the scene was utterly still I felt drawn in, as though grasped by the colorful tendrils around the faux trees, as though invited in by the sirens’ graceful arms. I wanted those things! The beauty of it all left me with a warm and happy feeling. Well, that mixed with a sense of temptation… yes, I liked those things, but did I really need to spend my money to own them? A small mental battle ensued.
In just a few steps I turned my gaze forward to my path again. Coming towards me was an older man with a cane. The kind that blind people use. His gaze was directed straight ahead and slightly down as he moved the cane in a rhythmic pattern – left tap, right tap, left tap, right tap – helping him navigate his way. He was walking past the very same window that had me entranced. But he didn’t see any of it. He didn’t know the sirens were calling silently to him. He didn’t see that the colors and patterns were delicious. He did not have to face the temptations that were running through my mind. He just kept walking.
It left me wondering… how does that man experience the various aspects of his world? What temptations enter his consciousness, and how do they grasp him? Clearly the kinds of things that were starting to feel important to me did not even enter his mind.
Those few seconds of experience and awareness created a quick reality check for me. Yes, visual beauty is beautiful, and worthy of appreciation. But it’s not everything. Certainly owning it is not everything. The memory of beauty can be enjoyed long after experiencing it. For me, it is most often my eyes that afford me that privileged experience.