The Gift of Blur

I’ve worn glasses since I was 7 years old. I remember the smell of Dr. Karnett’s office, the optometrist who fitted me with my first pair of cat-eye glasses. And I remember, quite vividly, when I put those glasses on the first time, and the world, once wobbly and blended, popped into sharpness and distinction.

I don’t just need my glasses once in awhile, or only when driving. No. I need my glasses to see. All the time. I can’t do anything without them. So, from a very early age, the clarity of my vision became a metaphor for me. Throughout my life, the desire to see clearly, to perceive with keen vividness has fueled me at every level, not just physical vision: my intellectual drive, the yearning to understand emotions and feeling states, and the overarching urge toward knowing, in some fundamental way, in order to feel secure and in control.

glassesRecently, I managed to get a scratch on the right lens of my glasses. It is smack dab in the middle of my sightline, so not easy to avoid. At first, it was annoying, and I was mad at myself for being careless. But then I remembered something an artist friend once taught me while at a museum.  After looking at a picture for awhile, she stood further away and squinted. “What are you doing?” I asked, perplexed. “Oh, It’s really helpful to look at paintings like this. I always see new things. Try it.” So I did, and sure enough, new areas of the painting popped out. I saw relationships in the work that hadn’t been evident when I looked with my usual intent focus. The squint forced me to let go of the boundaries of things, see the blended places, and the areas where things merged, where shadow and form became each other, and the sense of distinction faded, so the whole was visible. I also noticed that while my eyes were squinting, the rest of me was relaxed. My body softened and I felt like I, too, had blended in and was a part of the whole.

It was a radical way to see, and I regularly practiced this when looking at art. But now, with this smudge in the middle of my vision, I find myself looking right into the blur—not just in museums, but in life. And so, without planning, the scratch has become a not-so subtle reminder of all the fuzzy areas—areas that are neither clear nor distinct nor, in fact, in my control. Each time I “see” the blur anew, I find myself asking internally:  How can I let the blur support all my perceiving as a reminder of the softness where things meet and become each other, where the boundaries are watery, and where I am part of it all, not separate? And each time, I smile, and feel my body and breath release as I experience my connection with the whole.

Posted in Mind and Body in Harmony


  1. Karen Wright says:

    Hi Lynn,
    Perhaps I’ve already told you my own vision story? As a younger woman I had a workplace medical exam and the doctor told me I had really excellent vision- “airline pilot’s eyes” he said. Without realising it I soon integrated this information into my sense of self. Although my children, like their father, needed glasses, I had my own personal superpower, my airline pilot’s eyes.

    As I approached fifty years of age I began to find the dietary information on cans & packages was sometimes written in a sort of pale washed out colour and was unhelpfully tiny! Why would they do that, who could possibly read that (if even I couldn’t was the unfinished thought)?

    So for me, realising that I needed reading glasses meant that I had lost my (imagined) super power. It has been a wonderfully humbling lesson in identity, clinging, impermanence, imperfection, letting go and acceptance. May we all smile and be fully present when we meet the blur, a wise teacher indeed.
    Many thanks dear Lynn

    • Lynn Koerbel says:

      Oh Karen, yes the loss of any of our “supah powahs” is a reckoning! I just had a flash of all of us adults walking around with our capes–defeating our real and imaginary foes–until those moments when we can’t see the type on the jars, or we walk into the wall instead of through it… and become real. Who needs super powers when this life is so wonderous. And yet it takes real courage to see that. Pun intended. Thank you for writing.

  2. Adrienne says:

    I love this story! I’ve always had really bad vision, legally blind if uncorrected. Finally at age 50 I had LASIK and all of the sudden I could see! All the time, day and night. And it drove me crazy! I wanted to tear my eyes out. Then I realized that I’d always used my blurred vision as a way to relax. I’d take my contacts out, I couldn’t see much, all was peaceful. Everything looked clean, everybody was pretty and I’d know I was done for the day.
    Now with my perfect vision, I’d wake up in the middle of night and I could see everything, I get up in the morning I could see everything. I couldn’t relax, I was stressed. I remember telling my husband in sheer frustration “how do you people (meaning sighted people) live like this!” When I mentioned during my follow-up visit, the doctor said that was actually a common reaction that people have after having the surgery. Not everybody but quite a few.
    It took me a couple of months to get used to it. Of course, I love my vision but I do miss just being able to relax into my blurry, soft world.

  3. Lynn Koerbel says:

    Thank you for sharing, Adrienne. We have ideas about how a change will be for us–what it will bring us, how it will affect us. And the reality often has nothing to do with the fantasy of that. As I read your words I could feel the visceral sense of being “on,” and pulled outward with your new sight and not able to manage all the incoming stimuli. Stress, indeed. And then the attending need to find new ways to work with that. Even when we gain what we most want, sometimes there is grief for what we didn’t know we’d miss.

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