By Bill Harley
This is a story about how some challenges I faced with my physical eyesight helped me develop my spiritual vision.
As many people age they eventually have to address the removal of cataracts that develop in their eyes and fog their vision.
My turn came several years ago and the surgical removal of my cataracts was complicated by the fact that I also have glaucoma in my eyes—a problem with pressure build-up that can lead to blindness if not controlled through daily use of eye drops and/or surgery.
My eye doctor at the time was a person I had been going to for over a decade. We scheduled the surgery for my right eye with the surgery on my left eye planned two weeks later to make sure the first eye had successfully healed before proceeding with the second. I was fully aware that having glaucoma is a “wild card” for any kind of eye surgery, but the odds of a normal outcome were firmly in my favor.
When the day for the first surgery came, everything seemed to go well; however, in the aftermath of the surgery, I noticed there was a partial loss of vision in my right eye. My circle of vision in that eye had a smudge across it in the upper hemisphere just like someone had left a greasy finger print on my eyeball. From the smudge upward, I could see nothing.
My doctor and I immediately and indefinitely postponed the cataract surgery on my second eye. I went to two specialists to determine what had happened. No one could figure it out—the cataract surgery looked successful and the “smudge” across the upper part of my vision could not be seen with the usual instruments. Everyone concurred that it must be the glaucoma and recommended I postpone the cataract surgery on my second eye for as long as possible to avoid losing more vision.
When I got new glasses after the surgery another problem emerged. I needed only a small correction in the lens for my right eye (the vision was sharper in that eye except for the area of the smudge), but I needed a large correction in my left eye that hadn’t been operated on. In fact, the dramatic difference in the correction needed between my two eyes meant that my brain could not integrate the two views into one. I saw one view of the world with my left eye and another with my right eye. It was very difficult and disorienting. Driving a car took my full concentration and reading a book was almost impossible. I struggled with this condition for 9 months as my eye doctor and the optician tried different optical tricks to resolve the problem.
During this vision-skewed period, I encountered the well-known scripture where God says, “O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved.” I actually laughed out loud when I read it because the opening line so accurately mirrored my condition; but as I thought about it, I wondered if there was a spiritual message embedded in my eye condition. Maybe I needed to work harder on detaching from worldly concerns and focusing on spiritual concerns; and maybe I needed to rely more on my Creator—the “Beloved” with a capital “B”. This hunch strengthened into a conviction over the 9 month span of double vision because I unexpectedly stumbled on that same scripture five more times. As a result, I made a number of adjustments in my life to increase my focus on “the hallowed beauty of the Beloved” through prayer, scriptural reading and service to others.
At the end of the nine months, with virtually all the optical remedies exhausted, I was finally fitted with a contact lens in my left eye and glasses over both eyes; and presto, I could see one view of the world again. It was a tremendous relief to eliminate the double-vision problem even though I had irretrievably lost a third of the vision in my right eye.
Feeling truly blessed to have my consolidated vision back, I assumed my “eye problem” episode was over and I had learned what I needed to from these tests and difficulties. But I was sadly mistaken. As it turned out, I wasn’t even halfway through the journey laid out before me by the Creator. In my next blog, I will share the increasingly mystical remainder of “my eyesight journey”.
In the meantime, I encourage you to read Jean’s and my first book, Now That I’m Here, What Should I Be Doing? It’s about the three ultimate purposes of life, the spiritual growth dynamics that need to be navigated to achieve these purposes and how tests and difficulties play a pivotal role in each person’s spiritual, social, material and intellectual development.