I was prescribed my first pair of progressive bifocal eyeglasses several years ago. All of a sudden, something that was natural had to be learned; the mere act of focusing! Friends assured me that with practice it would become second nature, but it was hard. Very hard!
Stepping on an escalator was terrifying. Walking into a big box store made me dizzy. I am used to them now, but if the glasses slip down my nose it takes a few moments of intentional re-focusing to see clearly again. My eyes no longer adjust effortlessly from near vision to far and back again.
I need the same intentionality in changing focus on the issues around me. Years ago, in the midst of a dysfunctional situation in our parish and diocese, I began to view all priests and bishops through the same dysfunctional lens. My parochial situation had colored my view of the universal church. I needed to refocus, to gaze outwards to seek reasons for hope.
Other times, I get so caught up in my international work and the issues in the greater church that I lose sight of the blessings right under my nose. I need to refocus, yet again, this time intentionally looking inwards.
Single vision is a curse of many discussion boards. Regardless of the topic being presented, some respondents stubbornly pull the conversation back to their own issue. Talking about inner-city poverty? Let’s bring up the sexual abuse crisis in the church. Just read an insightful piece describing the inner workings of the Vatican? Let’s bash the pope and all bishops. Read a news story about nuns standing up for social justice? Let’s fling hateful vitriol about liberal feminists.
The single vision curse is also at the root of an increasingly parochial view of the church and the world. Nationalistic pride is one thing. Refusing to look at the world outside of your borders is another. News of global importance seldom sets the response counter spinning like the newest scandal on our doorstep does. Check the numbers.
We need to exercise the full range of our vision. It’s easy to get stuck in either a near or far-sighted focus. It takes intentionality to look beyond our own issues. It takes intentionality to stop and listen to voices other than our own.