I believe in vision… not that gift of divination, imagination, foresight, and introspection that so many of us, in this age of self-realization, associate with the word. Rather, I trust in the marvelous interplay of rod, cone, spectral light, and neuron that endows us with a boon called “sight.”
I often consider what my life would be like without vision, and I wonder how I would mesh with my world if I were deprived of my eyes—those orbed portals that introduce the vibrant rainbow of the universe to my feeble consciousness. Without sight, I would know how it felt to step onto my porch on a summer morning and sense the warmth of the sun pressing against my face; at another season, the evanescent touch of a snowflake upon my forehead might send me back indoors to fumble for a jacket. My ears would convey the pure, three-toned call of a chickadee to my appreciative brain. My nose might relay the perfume of spring lilacs or the essence of autumn apples to my awareness—or (just as likely) the corruption of a forgotten chicken wrapper buried in last week’s trash.
But, without my eyes, what would I make of the things I heard, smelled, and touched? Without vision, would I be capable of building that delectable stream of memories that—aside from an arguably meaningful thumb—most likely sets us apart from the remainder of creation?
My eyes have afforded me the independence and rigid self-reliance that carried me through medical school and on to a demanding profession. (By the way, those same attributes have, on occasion, been my undoing; some of the most telling lessons of my life have come from an overweening confidence in my ability to get something done).
Now, as my eyes fail, I believe more than ever in this thing called “vision.” Already, I am unable to see to the bottom of the tunnel that is a child’s ear canal, or match up the edges of a wound that, five years ago, I could deftly suture while casually conversing with my patient, or discern the vagrant folds of tissue that serve as the landmarks for installing a life-saving airway. Already, I have forfeited a career in medicine, thus surrendering an identity that can only be claimed by someone with acute vision.
I wonder how long I will be able to appreciate the advent of another day… or revel in its multi-hued departure. When will I no longer apprehend the bounce of a robin over a newly-watered lawn? Have I already, for the last time, cast my own hand-tied fly to a trout’s dimpled rise?
As my eyesight dims, I wonder if I will have the vision to sustain me as I move on to whatever is next.
I believe I will.
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