Helen Keller Could See

A blind man walks into a restaurant.  The maitre d’ says, “I’m sorry sir, dogs are not allowed in the restaurant.”  The blind man defends, “This is my guide dog.”  The maitre d’ replies, “You expect me to believe that a chihuahua is a guide dog?”  To which the blind man exclaims, “What?!  They gave me a chihuahua as a guide dog?!”

This is my favorite joke.  My children tease that it’s the only one I can remember.  This is true, but really I love it because of what it implies about human nature, and about the gift we call vision.  It leaves me thinking that vision may not be the prize we think it is.

I’ve been myopic since sixth grade.  By the time I reached high school I needed to wear glasses full-time.  I despised my limited eyesight, feeling vulnerable to ridicule and dependent on a pair of plastic frames for survival.  So scared and angry was I at not being able to see everything at all times, that I cursed God and my body for my handicap.  The advent of contact lenses provided some relief from the struggle.  But when repetitive eye infections plagued me during my senior year, and I was forced to resurrect the large, thick glasses FOR MY PROM, the venom returned.

I’ve made some peace with limited vision since then and have come to appreciate the availability of corrective lenses.   At times, I can even laugh about the predicament of low vision.   Like the morning my glasses fell off the bedside table.  The folly of trying to find the thing that helps you see when you need that very thing to see, cracks me up.

Giving up the search, I stumbled to the bathroom, hands on walls for guidance, to begin my morning routine.  After rubbing the sleep from my eyes and washing my face, I looked up to the mirror to asses the night’s damage.   Instead of the middle-aged, bags-under-the-eyes, acne-prone woman who usually greets me, was a…well…beauty.  Before me stood a healthy, trim, glossy-skinned goddess.  I could hardly believe my blurry eyes.

With regret, the irony hit me.  Seeing poorly made me see well.  I recall a meditation instructor guiding his students to look at their faces from the inside out.  At the time, I didn’t get it.  But today, standing half-naked and partially blind in front of a mirror, I see myself for the first time from the inside.  And I am perfect.  The realization makes me cry.

I mentally flip through a list of misguided grievances that have accumulated over years of ‘seeing’ myself.    How unfairly harsh I’ve been on my human form.  How many beliefs about my worthiness do I possess that are based on false processing through my eyes? Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In the absence of detailed vision, I see the whole picture.

When my daughter was two years old, I scolded her for misbehaving.  Subsequently, I frowned at her.  She pointed her little finger at me and said, “No, Mommy.  Don’t see me that way!”  She’s right, of course.  I wasn’t just giving her ‘a look.’  I was judging her, seeing her in a way that reflected my unloving thoughts.  It’s the same disapproving look I’ve given myself in the mirror.

My thoughts drift to Helen Keller who said, “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden.  I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.” After awakening to the limitations of my own intact senses, I conclude that perhaps blindness exists to an even greater degree in those who believe they can see.

I’m over forty years old now, which means my eyes are too.  After years of failing to see at a distance, they are deciding that, heck, they don’t need to see anything up close, either.  And it’s okay.  Seeing is overrated.

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein, to be content.”  – Helen Keller.

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