Some things in life take time to appreciate. We struggle to make sense of it all. Looking around today, many of us wonder how we got into this mess. Where did we go wrong? More importantly, how do we retrieve a sense of balance?
Like everyone else, I fear the coming year and feel unprepared to meet the challenge. This past week, however, having spent a few days in small town New Hampshire, I had the opportunity to come to my senses… all of them. Perhaps I had to face the fact that at 74, my senses are not what they used to be. Then I began to see if there was a parallel.
Beginning a couple years ago, my optometrist told me I had developed cataracts. I thought I understood, but did not worry too much. I could see clearly and felt I had adjusted well. When the day finally came for surgery I was hesitant, but ready. The operation took only 15 minutes per eye—carried out a month apart. I was shocked. I kept concentrating on focus, but what I had lost was light. At first it was blinding. While I was concerned about focus, I was slowly moving into darkness and focus is a factor of light. Suddenly I saw what was happening. Politicians keep telling us to focus, but what we needed was light.
Years ago, while visiting Mammoth Caves, a park ranger guiding us through a cave He turned off the lights so we could experience total darkness. Our eyes kept trying to focus, but we could see nothing, and our eyes were not able to function. We need to turn our attention first to light, and then to focus. We need to demand light from our leaders.
In the past year, my hearing has been getting worse. I have totally lost the high end of the sound spectrum. I hardly hear birds singing anymore. To compound my hearing, I suffer from tinnitus—a constant noise in my ears slowly growing in intensity. Unconsciously, I find myself spending less time in groups or crowds because I have trouble hearing people’s words. I rely more and more on the experiences from other senses. The tinnitus static competes more and more with communications.
Looking around me today, I can see our society having a similar experience. We seek sound bites in a sea of static noise. Rather than sit quietly, we use the media as background noise, unconscious of its growth in decibels. We waste time on cell phones, computers and Netflix movies to escape the real world. We walk around with headphones enclosed in a world of our own making. We suffer from social tinnitus. We have grown deaf to the pleas of those in need near us.
Over time, I have become sharply attuned to my legs. They are the means I use to get around in life. Together they suspend my spine and help we walk erect. A few years back, I had major back surgery for spinal stenosis to render me mobile again. With a stronger backbone, I found it easier to get around. The challenge, however had taken a toll on my legs. I suffer from DVT (blood clots in my left leg) and I have had my right knee replaced. In short, mobility has become a challenge.
Over the past 240 years, our country has had problems with a solid backbone and with mobility. Moving is always possible, but we have no sense of direction, so we ramble, often walking/running in circles. We have spinal stenosis in government, often lacking the strength to get from point A to point B. We rely more and more on what we know, on familiar habits. “We’ve always done it this way!” (Of course, that is a lie!) The sense of touch is the first to develop in the womb. All other senses flow from the sense of touch. We “keep in touch” as a means of staying grounded in reality. Touch yields texture, helps us determine shape and it guides us as we “manipulate” our environment. As we age, our fingertips lose their sensitivity. As we fear, we lose touch with one another; and eventually, we grow “out of touch.”
We accuse politicians with being out of touch with the voters and over half the population does not vote. We can point to problems, but we refuse to get our hands dirty. We feel safer showing our fists than extending a handshake. We want to cultivate progress, but we refuse to put our hands to the plow.
With age, our bodies ache and our national infrastructure aches as well. We can reach for the stars, but the bridges to cross a river are unsafe. We can build walls, but we cannot build bridges. Changing the direction of our country will take a sensible approach. We need to commit ourselves to a fitness program for the nation. We need to look around us and create light. We need to fine-tune our ears to hear the pleas of those in need. We need to mobilize our forces to move forward and to rebuild our infrastructures. We need to engage our common sense and seek common ground. Each of our canoes is easily tipped, but if we lash them into rafts, we can stabilize our communities and survive any storm.
In short, all we need to do is come to our senses.
Roger A Chauvette,