We were taking an evening walk with a three-year-old around Christmas time. “Let’s walk as far as the tree with the red and green lights.”
He looked puzzled, turning from side to side, and asked: “What tree?”
“That tree in front of us that looks like a big carrot.” It seemed impossible to miss. “Don’t you see it?”
“OK.” He was clearly not seeing what I was seeing.
It wasn’t a matter of the child not knowing color names or seeing distant objects — we started to suspect that he has a deficiency in how he sees colors — color blindness. To him, the iconic Christmas colors were apparently indistinguishable from the white star lights in the same yard. We make assumptions that everyone sees the way we do. This experience brought us face-to-face with the fault in that logic.
An eye doctor knows that we have physiological blind spots, detectable by a visual fields test. An ophthalmologist will monitor the blind spot for consistency and stability. A growing blind spot would be an indicator of encroaching vision loss. Unfortunately, visual blind spots are not our only afflictions.
At the gym, multiple televisions are tuned to different stations. Watching the subtitles scrolling across the screens diverts exercisers from aerobic machine tedium. Do Fox and CNN have access to the same information? Are they even discussing the same topic? Clearly they seem to have arrived at substantially different interpretations and conclusions.
Things can be ambiguous, but facts do exist. Calculating 20% of $5 has one right answer. Deciding how much to tip your Uber driver is open to interpretation. Does the image at left show two faces or a vase? Yes.
People with color blindness learn to compensate for their vision issue, such as memorizing the order of lights on traffic signals. Top means “stop;” bottom means “go.” Or picking apples based on the name, feel, or smell rather than color…
But, before you can fix something, you first have to realize and admit there’s a problem. You don’t need a doctor to diagnose our cultural blind spot: “I’m right; you’re wrong.” Unfortunately, that’s usually not the end of the discussion. We have no power over another person’s perspective or opinion. Look in the mirror and try some corrective lenses on yourself:
- Choose wonder rather than certainty or judgment. “Help me understand how you’re seeing this.”
- Consider whether the other person knows or sees something that you don’t. Maybe you are wrong or have incomplete information.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. We jump to conclusions based on how things appear to us. Maybe I really don’t see things the way you do.
- Examine your assumptions. Ask questions. Be open to different perspectives.
If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, don’t invent it with your small mind and share it with your big mouth. Anonymous
We all have blinders on. Being human requires humility — we’re going to get things wrong. We don’t have a 360 degree perspective and can’t see around corners. The path to wisdom is recognizing our fallibility: we see less clearly than we think we do. Remember that the next time you pronounce a judgment. Admitting I might be blind can help restore sanity. Do you see what I see? Probably not.
© Joan S Grey, 24 JAN 2020
IndexCardCure™: a new vision for 2020