Last November I lost my glasses in Kathmandu. I was taking classes and couldn’t hold texts far enough away to read, so I bought drugstore reading glasses. With them what’s close is clear but all else is blurred. Without them only what’s distant is clear. The new prescription glasses I got yesterday should make everything clear but the optician said: “It will take you a couple of days to learn where things are”.
Seeing: I’d never thought about it in that way. I hadn’t noticed the feedback loop where my brain directs my eye muscles to change focus between what’s close and more distant. It happens fast so I imagined everything is always in focus. I’d have realized it’s not if I’d thought about it, but there never was a reason to. With the new glasses I must learn to tip my head up and down so my eyes see through the right part of the lens. That requires practice.
Feeling: Last night I finished the first book I’ve read by Ron Rash, “The Cove”. I intend now to read everything he ever wrote. I knew early on how the story must end, not the specific outcome but what the situation makes inevitable. Half way through, I wanted to stop. I was feeling what the protagonists feel, knowing I’d do the same as those I liked, and that I share the weaknesses of those who would do harm. The story is sadder even than I anticipated, and utterly convincing. Why choose to experience such feelings? Because I understand a little more.
Thinking: Yesterday, I heard on the radio about the Ku Klux Klan in Maine in the 1920s. I thought it was all about white supremacy and only in the South. In fact, it was strong here, too, but with a different target, Catholics. There were violent anti-Catholic riots here in the 1850s. A mob inflamed by a street-preacher calling himself “The Angel Gabriel” burned a Catholic church, a Catholic priest was tarred and feathered, and there was much more. In the 1920s, the Klan arose. They whipped up the ongoing conflict between descendants of the English and the Irish and French-Canadian Catholics who came later. Klan members were elected by many towns, as State representatives and one even became Governor. There were daylight hooded marches, cross-burnings and Catholic homes were burned. It was unsafe to speak French in public. The Klan fizzled within a decade but their Governor later was elected to the US Senate and became a close ally of Senator Joe McCarthy. How can anyone think it’s OK to do such things?
Blogging: A day or two ago, a friend said: ” I like your posts about tax. It must take a lot of work. Why are you doing it?” I always enjoyed the challenge of understanding things and the elation when understanding dawns. Our society is not functioning well and the tax system is one important factor so I want to know what big impacts it has and how it could be changed to help society work better. “Articulating what I think I understand is my best way to test if I do understand. That’s why I write,” I told my friend. “But it’s not helpful if I don’t tell anyone when I see something important that isn’t generally understood. That’s why I publish what I write.”
About Ron Rash’s “The Cove” – the fundamental difference between the good characters and those who do harm is the ones who do good see their situation as it is, they have the courage to act on what is, and they have good judgment about happiness.
It is not easy to see our situation as it is. We imagine how it might have been or how it may be in future. We forget it’s only in this instant that we’re alive. This is the only moment we have a choice. Hope, fear and regret lead us to choices that create unhappiness. We must train ourselves out of hope, fear and regret.