inkblotMy mum bought some new spectacles a few weeks ago. Very pleased with them she was too, once a few minor adjustments had been made to make sure they fit properly. But then, as time passed, she reported that they’d stopped ‘working’. It was getting increasingly difficult for her to read, and she complained that things looked blurry. And it seemed to get a bit worse every day. Her new specs, she was convinced, weren’t as good as her old ones and either the optician had got her prescription wrong or her eyesight was failing rapidly and she’d soon be blind. ‘Book an appointment,’ I said, concerned. ‘We’ll get them to take another look.’ Because the obvious solution – perhaps just because it was so bloomin’ obvious – hadn’t occurred to me (as it may already have done to you). The next time I called, she beamingly reported that the new specs were fine, just fine. She could see clearly again. Because – you guessed it – she’d washed them. The increasing fog hadn’t been due to glaucoma, macular degeneration or a faulty eye test, but to grease, dust and fingerprints all over the lenses. Warm soapy water was all it took to restore the clarity of her vision. Oh that it were always so easy! How often have I looked at the world, or a situation, or a person and drawn conclusions based on my own very limited perception of what was going on? How often have I made assumptions without really knowing all the relevant facts? How often have I leapt to judgement because I simply couldn’t see, because the equivalent of grease, dust and fingerprints was getting in the way and clouding my vision? And how often have I been humbled or felt ashamed when I found out more, and my earlier judgements were forced to give way to concern, compassion and, often, to admiration? What is it they say? Do not judge until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes. Because everyone has their own story. And most people’s stories are remarkable in one way or another. Few of us escape without challenges, obstacles, tragedies, losses of some kind or another. If we could see the emotional scars of others we might treat them differently, with greater understanding, with more patience, with less of a rush to pigeonhole, to judge, to condemn. And it’s not just dirty lenses that get in the way. A different perspective can change everything. You know those line drawings that, looked at from one angle show a beautiful young woman with a wondrous cleavage, but squint your eyes a little and she turns into an old hag? ‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change’, said Wayne Dyer. Our viewpoint, our opinion, our interpretation of what’s happening is exactly that – ours. And it behoves us to at least hold the awareness, the possibility, that other viewpoints, other opinions, other interpretations may be equally, if not more valid, than our own. Like the Rorschach test, those ink blots that psychologists use to examine a person’s characteristics and emotional functioning, how we interpret stuff tells us a lot about who we are and how we see the world. ‘Seek always to understand, rather than to be understood’, said Steven Covey. And it’s wise advice, not least because it can save us from premature judgements or rash conclusions that can later turn out to reflect badly, not on the object of our judgement, but on us. Out walking the dog yesterday (funny, isn’t it, how Laika the dog manages to infiltrate most of my blogs!), we heard a skylark, pouring out its magical lyrical waterfall of sound. ‘It’s up there!’ said Michael, pointing at the vast expanse of clear blue sky. Except it wasn’t. No matter how hard I looked, no skylark could I see. ‘You’re imagining it, it’s over there in the bushes,’ I told him. ‘No, it’s up there.’ ’No it isn’t’. And then suddenly it was. High high up, a tiny flickering diamond of joyful song, its breast reflecting the sun. And then it was gone again. And then it was back. Oh, there are none so blind as those who cannot see. A young couple moved into a new house. At breakfast on the first morning, the wife looked out at the next door garden, where her neighbour was hanging out the washing (yes, some people do still dry their washing the environmentally friendly way!) ‘Those shirts still look dirty to me,’ she commented. ‘Someone’s mum isn’t using (insert the name of your own favourite brand of washing powder here)’. This happened a few times, until the morning dawned when the washing was flapping in the breeze, white and sparkling. ‘Goodness!’ said the wife. ‘Someone’s changed their detergent!’ ‘Er, did I mention that I cleaned the windows yesterday?’ said her husband. We could all do with cleaning our inner windows from time to time.