Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The World’s Become Bendy

My world’s become bendy.

Yesterday, my right eye became inflamed with what is either an eye infection or simply a very irritated eye from something that got under my contact lens. I don’t know, but today, to try and help it heal, I have been wearing my glasses all day.

I almost never wear my glasses. Around the house before bed from time to time… while I’m changing my long-term disposable contact lenses. That’s about it. Until today, I can’t think of the last time I wore my glasses all day. And my world has become bendy.

It is not that they are no longer my prescription… I replaced the lenses only about six months ago, and they are the same prescription as my contacts. And yet everything seems like I am looking at it on a television screen. When I stand up and walk, I feel like I am viewing my life through one of those 360 degree cameras, that bends the perspective on the edges of the screen… like the online tour of Unity Temple in Chicago.

I’m sure if I stuck with the glasses a few days or a week, this feeling would go away… seeing my world as curved along the edges would become my norm. But I do not want to get used to it… I want my reality back.

It struck me as I was driving to the church this morning just how tenuous our connection to what we think of as “reality” really is. As I was driving extra slow and cautious on a freeway I have driven almost every day for the last six months, this change in how I gather and process information had a profound effect. Before, I would listen to the radio, think about an upcoming sermon topic, reflect on a meeting I just had, because I was comfortable with the road, with my driving ability, and with the car.

Now, I was comfortable with none of these things, and the only thought I had besides concentrating on not causing an accident (because my depth perception was off) was the realization that I had no attention to spare for anything else but driving.

My reality had changed due to wearing my glasses. I want my old reality back.

There is also the reality of my own perception of myself. I have not worn my glasses on a regular basis since I was a 16 year old high school kid, weighing 125lbs who got made fun of a lot for being a geek. In that next year and a half, I got contacts, put on about 40lbs of muscle and height, and people quit making as much fun of me. A few years later I was a 205 pound soldier in a Special Forces unit, and no one but my fellow soldiers even tried to make fun of me… more than once.

Though there is little reality in it, this perception change of myself is linked irrevocably to the decision I made at 16 to get rid of my glasses and ask for a pair of contacts for my birthday. My self-image shifted drastically the first time I went to school wearing contacts. Today, wearing glasses, I found myself reflecting on that 16 year old, geeky, nearsighted kid… and feeling much more like him than I do the soldier I became… or the seminarian and minister I am now.

Our reality is shaped by the lenses we have. Sometimes, like today, those lenses are physical ones… but more often than not they are psychological. I don’t like glasses. Not because they make my eyesight bendy (I’d filter that out over time) but because they bring up memories of my self-perception in my teenage years that I thought I had left behind.

Perhaps, when we think about attending a church, we look at that church through the lens of our past religious experience… and from that our reality is shaped. Perhaps when we meet someone we are interested in, we judge them through the lens of our past relationships, and from that our reality is shaped. Perhaps when we become angry at someone, that anger comes more through the lens of our own needs and fears than from anything they have done.

Yesterday, wearing my contacts, my world was crisp and clear, I had good depth perception, and I felt comfortable with the reality I saw through them. Today, wearing my glasses, my world bends at the edges, I keep bumping into walls, I drive very slowly and fearfully, and the reality around me is a bit unnerving.

Reality is not as firm as we sometimes think it is. How we think of it, how we live in it, what lenses, emotions, and experiences we perceive it through change our reality. Far from being any kind of concrete from which clear yes or no, right or wrong answers can arise, our reality consists almost entirely of our own perceptions.

My glasses did not make the world bendy. The world has always been and will always be bendy. Wearing my glasses just made me perceive it for a time.

Can’t wait to get my contacts back.

Yours in Faith,


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