from The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2019
I don’t have 20/20 vision. My eye exam between high school graduation and leaving for college was routine, but included a surprise ending. I got my first pair of glasses that summer, and my up-close vision took a remarkable turn for the better.
My mom had worn glasses since she was young. My sister wore glasses, too, but outgrew them. She began wearing them again as an adult, but just for reading. My brother wears glasses. My dad got glasses when he was 40-ish. If I remember correctly, it was a pretty big deal for him.
Both of my girls wear glasses and two grandchildren do, too. Thanks to competent optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists, our vision has been and continues to be corrected.
So my reference to 20/20 has not gone by unnoticed, so to speak. But even though the literal act of seeing in this perfect vision year of 2020 was tempting to investigate, my mind skewed away from the physical mechanics of our eyes.
Last year I chose “focus” for my word of the year. I freely admit, “focus” was not as successful as I wished it had been. I probably should have done a repeat on that one. Part of my loss of focus stemmed from allowing myself to give in to the many distractions competing for my attention.
To gain clarity, I learned, is to pay close attention to what is happening in the moment. Moment by moment. Like they say, “it’s a practice.”
And to achieve clarity we need to acknowledge that hindsight is 20/20 only if we apply what we learn from looking back. Hindsight and foresight may not be opposites, but learning from the past is what gives hindsight its clarity. And foresight is not really fortune-telling. It is applying those lessons we learn from the past to decisions we make now and project into the future.
The words clairvoyant and clairvoyance come from the 13th century French, clair (clear) and voyant the present participle of voir, (seeing). https://www.etymonline.com/word/clairvoyant It wasn’t until 1834 that the words were used in their psychic sense, commonly associated today with telling the future.
People we call visionaries may just be goal-setters, list-makers, and those who learn from the past. Not fortune-tellers, just people who are in tuneful harmony with the world around them.
A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in St. Louis. We took a one-minute tram ride in a cramped little pod to arrive at the top of the Gateway Arch, 630 feet high. We entered the observation deck, which is much larger than it looked from the ground, and attended by a Park Ranger. The day was sunny and the air was clear. My jaw dropped at the incredible view.
I asked the Ranger how far he thought I could see.
He answered, “About 35 miles on a day like this.”
That’s halfway from Youngstown to Cleveland!
Height and distance allow for that kind of clarity on a beautiful, summer day. Kinda of the opposite of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Or being lost in the weeds. Or being fooled by the optics of the news story of the moment.
My world is full of distractions. Lots of trees in the forest and fields full of weeds can get in my way of clear-thinking, clear-decision-making, and clarity in general.
I do try not to be fooled by optics, though.
Getting above it all to filter out what is important, relevant, and useful from the general clutter is what I will concentrate on this year. Setting priorities, making lists, and yes, continuing to work on “focus” will be important.
While I believe no one can really predict the future, I expect those of us who are good at “seeing the big picture” will have fewer surprises.
-—stay curious! (and in the moment)