A Filtered View

Closeup of Corey Hart wearing sunglasses. And it's night.

Words are like eyeglasses. They blur everything that they do not make clear.

Joseph Joubert

It seemed like a little thing but it illuminated something many people don’t even consider: how their view of the world filters everything in it.

Last weekend, my neighbour Carol and I took an Introduction to Pottery course at Pinecroft in Aylmer. It will be weeks before our projects are ready for pickup, so I’ll write about the class when I can also show you my work. But pottery itself isn’t today’s point.

I wear reader sunglasses. In the last year or so, I’ve needed some magnification in order to drive, so I got a few of these sunglasses for driving. But because they’re the same strength as my regular glasses, sometimes I don’t notice I have them on. That’s what happened on Saturday. It was a good hour or more before I realized I was wearing my sunglasses as I practiced molding clay.

I’d tried – and failed – a few times to make a clay cylinder. Talked to almost everyone else in the room. Been up to the teacher’s pottery wheel to view a technique up close. Even leaned over to push my glasses back up my nose using Carol’s shoulder because my hands were coated in clay. The whole time, wearing sunglasses.

I don’t remember how I realized I had them on. But when I did, I made a comment about it, like, wow – how did I not even notice it was dark in here! Others offered their reactions:

  1. I thought you were trying to look cool.
  2. I figured they were the kind that adjust when you’re indoors.
  3. How could you even see? I wouldn’t have been able to see.
  4. I assumed you forgot your regular glasses at home.

Everyone came up with their own reason why I was wearing my sunglasses indoors. #3 even assumed I couldn’t see properly but didn’t do anything to change that – just carried on with my day despite the discomfort. I’m stoic but I’m not THAT stoic.

This little moment at pottery class was a (harmless) microcosm of how we view the world – through our own filtered lenses. Each person came up with a different reason why I was doing what I did. And not one of them was right. I simply didn’t notice that I had sunglasses on. We were excited to get to the class and get started. There was much to do. The room didn’t seem particularly dark – until I put my regular glasses on.

Maybe you have someone in your life who takes things you say in a way you don’t intend them. When you’re with them, you always feel you’re on the defensive. They interpret you incorrectly. Recently, I identified one of these people after thinking about why I’m so uncomfortable in their presence. And because you can only change your own behavior, not anyone else’s, I decided to stop defending myself or correcting them. I let them think what they wanted, no matter how wrong it was. When they reacted in an odd way to something I’ve said, I didn’t take the bait. As the saying goes, “What you think of me is none of my business”.

Sunglasses aside, what kind of world would it be if we questioned our own assumptions? Gave people the benefit of the doubt? Or at least realized that what we assume says something about us, and not about them.

It was just a pair of sunglasses worn in the opposite of the Corey Hart song. They told me a little something about everyone at pottery class. But I really wish they could have helped me make a perfect bowl.

3 thoughts on “A Filtered View”

  1. 5. I thought you had a migraine and the light and glare was bothering your eyes. A real reason why I sometimes wear sun glasses when I’ve been working at my desk.

    If you could only see what I hear! the title to an 80’s movie which often makes me wonder if society was blind and being sighted was a disability where would we be?

    Having had perfect sight into my early 20’s and now sitting on the other side of the table, I frequently shake my head at that which the sighted world can’t see or don’t want to see.

    It’s easier to assume and presume than seek answers.

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