Friday, January 13, 2012

Behind white eyes

Actor's portrayal of the author
People often ask what it's like going back home. It's 21 degrees be-freakin-low zero is what it's like! Sweet Jesus, we really picked a great time to be pedestrians again. Bikers, even. I rode to the coffee shop at 7 this morning with nothing but my eyes exposed. I should have had goggles on. I had goosebumps on my eyeballs. I had to go to the mirror in the bathroom 'cause I swore I was bleeding from my eyes. Turns out it was just most of the water I drank last night, warmed in the furnace of my belly, shot out of my glands like windshield washer fluid to keep my eyeballs from cracking. But it's gotta go somewhere, so there I was in the cafe with ice on my lashes, looking like a sea anemone. I had to ask to stick my head over the grill so I could close my eyes. And when I finally settled into my spot at the cafe, I looked at the weather again and realized...I had forgotten to switch my readout from Celcius to fahrenheit. Heh.

So it turns out it was only 6 below. What a wuss. But in my mind I was at the top of Everest. Sure, I just got back from a year at the equator and was unaccustomed to real cold, but that just goes further to illustrate my point. Which is...what, exactly, I hear you asking by now. My point is that we do not see the world as it is; we see the world as we are (I'm agreeing with the Talmud on that).

My mind, though powerful like a Jedi's, cannot make the air out there any colder than it is. But it can turn to the dark side and make me suffer more just by believing it's colder out than it really is. And so what if I'm unaccustomed to the cold and am more sensitive to it? Nothing has changed in me physiologically, and I'm no more prone to physical harm from the cold than before. But I certainly feel more vulnerable (wuss) and may change my behavior or make different decisions because of that feeling.

If you don't already agree that our world is colored by our own particular lens (why is everything so...white?), have you ever remembered back on something now familiar to you, like, say, your neighborhood, and remembered how it looked when you first saw it? In your mind's eye it is the same, but also somehow different. Or have you ever been attracted to someone then gotten to know them better and found them to be an absolute wanker...and then found them to be actually physically less attractive. Click! you've just turned on your wanker lens to view the same thing differently.

So now that I've given an absolutely ironclad and indisputable proof, let me tell you what I find different about the home we've come back to...nothing. Nothing at all, except of course for those actual physical differences, like different businesses open, larger children, a new welcome sign to Minturn (whooo woooooo!).

When I returned from my younger, backpacking travels, just about the whole world looked different to me. Now...nada. I'm not really sure what that means yet. Have the lenses in my eye hardened. Have they just temporarily frozen? Has my point of view become forever petrified, and am I now ready to sit on my front porch in my rocking chair and yell at those kids on my lawn in between mumblings about how them dang politicians have messed it all up for the common man?

But I have noticed something that does look different to me--me. Where once I returned from travel to find myself in a wholly different space/time continuum--seeing the world rush by in a frenetic pace, watching the busy work to produce and achieve nothing, feeling like a bubble on the surface of a vast and unfathomable sea--now I am no longer a critical observer. I am (finally) concerned more with the world that I can create rather than the one I observe. If what I see is the product of my own imagination anyway, it's high time to use my imagination to create what I see.

And so tomorrow I walk into the cafe as Frozen Winter Man! Now bring me my coffee.


  1. We sure do miss knowing you are somewhere in town...even though we did not get so see you much.. Oh by the way... I could have sworn we had animals going two by two last nite... an amazing storm.. all nite long till 6 am this morning! Not a good day to wash clothes in the river.. yet they are there doing it! Hugs to the family!

  2. Love those huge storms there, and love to go see the river when it happens and days after with all the colorful clothing washed onto the banks. Go rafting for us, and if you survive, hugs right back at ya.