“How many fingers am I holding up?” Asked the optometrist. She was standing about seven feet away, holding up her hand. All I could see was a lot of skin-colored fuzz.
“Three?” I guessed.
She took a large step forward. “How about now?”
Another step. “And now?”
The fingers looked slightly less hazy, and I hazarded an educated guess. “Four, I think. Did I get any of them right?”
She shook her head. “Only the last one.”
The truth hit me like a tornado, and I was blown away by the realization of my near sightedness. My body is flawed. My eyes are defective. I cannot see well, and I will never see well without corrective lenses. I am not, nor will I ever be, wholly perfect.
I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten years old. I remember the narrow corridor at the entrance to the eye doctor’s office in Ra’anana, the town in which I lived as a child. A man came out with his new glasses. He had a prescription of eleven, he said, and I stared, stupefied, at his thick lenses. “Please, God,” I prayed in my heart, “let me never have his thick lenses.”
I have been near sighted for most of my life, and yet it seems, ironically, that today I first realized just how near sighted I am. Till today, and despite boasting my own prescription of over eleven, I pegged my near sightedness an esthetic problem. Up to age eighteen, with an over-large pair of spectacles perched on my nose, I was the ugly duckling. I became more of a swan at eighteen after I was fitted with contact lenses. Today, however, struck with the lightning realization that my eyes are flawed, I understood for the first time that my poor vision is not just about beauty, but a body blot.
How often do you pause during the day to appreciate the perfect working of your body? The impeccable way it releases waste, the unassuming way in which it draws breath, the smooth movement of limbs, the effortlessness of a smile, the perfect support given you by your spine? I appreciate my body, and yet I rarely pause to notice how wonderfully it works until sickness or pain strikes. Then I appreciate my body, my immune system, the flawless mechanics every organ and part of the body has.
I got scared this afternoon, face to face with the imperfections of my body, face to face with its finiteness. Slowly but surely it is degenerating until one day it will cease working, and no matter how much I believe in reincarnations or the eternity of the spirit, no matter how weak or limited my body is, I am still attached.
As I write this to you, I remind myself of Thick Nhat Hanh’s words which Tara Brach relates in her book True Refuge: I am going to die, you are going to die, and we have only these few moments together. I remind myself to live and love now, and I feel grateful for my eyes (and the optometrist) which the universe has kindly granted me to remind me of my flaws so that I can see just how lucky I am.