One of the best parts of being a New Yorker is walking around the city. There is nothing like bopping through the city that never sleeps with a pair of headphones on and not a care in the world.
It’s not always that romantic. But it is pretty incredible. There is so much to see here. Neighborhoods, people, and architecture are constantly changing. It is like a kaleidoscope.
But one thing I’ve noticed lately is that there are some things that impair my vision. I don’t always see as well as I could.
This is true for my life as well. Since vision is the beginning of intentional living, my inability to see well is maybe the biggest reason I’m confused and frustrated. Here are five things that inhibit our vision and keep us from the clarity necessary to live a transformed life.
1) Impaired Perspective – I got a piece of eyelash stuck in my eye yesterday. It’s crazy how a little speck can distort my ability to see. My eyes water to get it out, which worked (eventually!), but didn’t help with the immediate clarity.
Perspective is the lens through which we view truth. And sometimes that lens is scratched or blurred. Sometimes it is scarred by an experience or a negative relationship. Sometimes it is blurred by my own bias and assumptions. Eyes are a lens in themselves and they are the only way we can see. If we get something disruptive lodged in it, our vision will not be complete.
2) Hurrying – We are always in such a hurry. When I walk around New York, I do it like I’m in a race. Even though I consider walking the streets of New York one of the best things I can do in a day, I’m in a hurry heading to appointments and commitments and fires that require my immediate attention.
In my rush to control things and treat immediate concerns, I miss the surprises that take my breath away, the interruptions that might prove to be the most significant thing I do in a day, and the bigger picture of what is happening around me. Business blurs the big picture. It makes a God of the moment.
The first time I went to Africa, I was completely annoyed at how they treat the concept of time. If they make an appointment for 9:00 a.m., they might not show up until 11:00. It seems crazy to me, to keep people waiting. But I heard a pastor explain that Americans treat time as a resource that disappears every moment while Africans treat time as a resource that replenishes every moment. Sometimes time is not the most important thing.3) Focus On Others – anyone who has ever walked the streets of New York knows what it is like to be annoyed. There is always someone walking too slow in front of you, standing in the way, or rushing up on you. The worst is when it is slightly raining because you have to dodge umbrellas of different heights.
I always consider that others are too fast or too slow. And the way they are moving hampers my ability to proceed in the way I want. I never really consider that I might be moving too fast or too slow. My attention shifts from what I am doing onto what they are doing. And I miss a world of sights around me as I wait for them to correct themselves or a sliver of opening for me to go through.
4) Weather – I already mentioned the umbrellas. That’s my least favorite way to move through the city. It’s like a game; the loser gets an eye poked out. My second least-favorite time is when the weather is cold and windy. I have to duck into my coat like a turtle retreating its head. I can’t think of seeing anything around me because the elements are so treacherous. And then, in the end, the summer heat is just as oppressive in its own right.
We’ve described culture in this blog as the air we breathe. The elements of what our organizations define as honorable and what we define as shameful help influence the way I see the world around me. As the atmosphere wears me down, it is difficult to do anything but survive, much less look around and be engaged by beauty.
5) The Paradox – Lastly, something I’ve noticed that inhibits my ability to see is a strange paradox of feeling both awed and overwhelmed. Each building, each person, each passing moment here in the city is so full of beauty that it almost cripples me. It can become easy to shrug it off, get used to it, and develop an apathy. Why try to look at every brick on every building? There are too many of them! Why try to smile at every face? There are eight million people in this city – give those cheeks a break!
In the end, the reason this is inhibitive is because I do not celebrate the paradox. Instead, I use it as an excuse to sleepwalk through the crowd.
It sounds simple enough, but to truly see things is very difficult. A proper vision is not easy to come by. But it is worth the effort and the overcoming of obstacles. Because a proper vision is the first step to a fulfilled life.