August 20, 2015


I remember when I got my first pair of prescription glasses. I was in seventh grade, and my parents noticed that I’d been having a lot of headaches, that I’d had trouble paying attention in class, and that I was starting to squint a lot. We went to an optometrist, had my eyes checked out. He put me in a chair and had me read letters through a large contraption and sure enough, I had become near-sighted; I could read things close to me, but I couldn’t see things in the distance like chalkboards or conductors. So he showed me option #1, and then option #2, then option #1 again, then option #2 again, and so on about a hundred times until I could read the letters all the way down to the 20/15 row. I’ve worn glasses ever since.

My first set was a huge pair of mostly-circular lenses held together by a bronze frame (that’s right: NERD glasses). My parents actually talked me out of a bigger pair, but when I first put them on, and for the first few months, it was all I could do to keep from playing with them. Their weight on my nose irritated me, the way they constantly slipped down when my face got sweaty, the way that those persistent smudges forced me to clean them all the time (carefully, without scratching). Eventually, the small scratches started adding up and I had to get the lenses replaced; the frames wore out so I got a new and better (and smaller) set; the use of glasses relaxed my eyes, which then caused my eyes to change again and I needed a new prescription. After a while, this became second nature, a constant process of refining my vision as my eyes changed, and in response to the world changing around me. Eventually, I didn’t notice them sitting there; I learned how to keep from getting so many smudges on them; they were adjusted to keep them from sliding so much.

There’s a lot we can learn from glasses.

Our experiences, our culture, our personalities, and our preferences all contribute to the way we perceive the world, like a pair of glasses that we slip between ourselves and reality. Like their optical counterparts, these worldviews guide our experiences in life, help us navigate the world, and to some degree, will change how we experience the events that happen to us. When we use our worldview, it actually influences our worldview to change, to grow in one direction or another like a plant towards sunlight. Or when the world changes around us and smudges or scratches our lenses, we often need to upgrade our worldview to adapt to new situations and new ideas we’d never encountered before. And like glasses, the worldview we choose will tell reality something about us too - many glasses look great, but it’s the lenses that matter, and some help better than others.

But I’ve also learned that our worldviews come at a cost. You can tint, cloud, warp, flip, or otherwise alter a lens, but doing so only changes that which you see, not the world you look at. How often do we go through hard situations to come out on the other side angry and jaded, determined to never let that happen again? We circle the wagons and hunker down, but the reality of the world is that we cannot keep bad things from happening; to think we can control the world otherwise is to warp our lenses and in doing so, we deceive only ourselves.

Furthermore, we wear glasses in the first place because it is our eyes that have trouble making sense of reality. The making of a good prescription requires external help; an optometrist, who already sees reality as it is, writes us a prescription to make our lenses. Likewise with our worldviews, an external voice that can perceive reality as it really is will be the best reference point as we grow, as the world shifts, as our lenses need upgrading. The one whom we choose as our optometrist (reference point) will determine what sort of world we see, and the only way to be sure it’s working out is through time and experience. Don’t be afraid to go through that process of constant evaluation to make sure the lenses are the right ones. As with glasses, your life can depend on it. 

Choose wisely.