. We all have age-related milestones such as learning to talk, walking, driving and a few years later voting. More recent ones for me were getting my first offers for AARP membership (my mother sent my info into them), and being called “Sir” everywhere I go. This week I have achieved another age related milestone. I had my cataracts removed and lens implants replacing them.
The results of the surgery are fabulous. Colors are different, more vivid and far less yellow. (That is the color of the cataract rather than the world I was viewing.) A cataract grows slowly and insidiously so that we are not aware that we are seeing the world through a clouded and colored lens. It is only when it is removed that we see clearly. It got me thinking about how many others things I don’t think about or recognize, become the lenses through which I see and interpret the world.
What are some of the other lenses which shape my perceptions and color my view of which I have often been unaware until it was pointed out to me?
As an American I have a perspective engendered by a developed, consumer driven economy. I see the world through a lens that values lots of STUFF. Some years ago a photographer for Life magazine went around the world and took photos of a typical families in the various countries in front of their home with all of their possession around them. It was astounding. It went from the bush people whose nomadic life left them with a scant few possessions to a “typical suburban family in the US with the piles of furniture, clothes, dishes, nick-knacks, electronics, cars, etc.
As a white, middle class male I am not usually aware of the privilege that is mine. I do not have as hard a time in the world of work and have never encountered a glass ceiling in place to keep my gender, race or sexual orientation below a certain level of success. I do not have to worry about being stopped by law enforcement for what an African American friend described as a DWB traffic stop (driving while black). Nor have a I had to explain to my male children the realities of constant awareness of the suspicion engendered by skin color
As an Episcopalian I am a member of a main-line Christian denomination and blissfully unaware of Christian chauvinism often perpetrated on non-Christians by those who purport to be followers of the prince of peace.
In moving to Southern Indiana I have become aware of an aural “lens”. Growing up in the Northeast I have a natural affinity for the speech pattern and dialects of that region and at times have difficulty understanding the speech of this more southern style of speech of some of my new neighbors. Even in language I now realize I was imbued with a dialect chauvinism of which I was previously unaware.
The good news is that it does not require physical surgery to see more clearly in these areas of life. We have to be open to listen to other people and their stories, their criticisms and their viewpoints even (and especially) when they are uncomfortable for us. We do it by stepping back from that which we are used to, in order to ask if this how it ought to be in equity and fairness. We do it by removing a or at least recognizing the biases, the cloudy lenses, or our distorted interpretations which skew our perceptions and our world view. And our world view becomes clearer and more colorful as we get rid of the clouds of our bias and ignorance.