Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Retirement is starting to take its toll. Often, I forget, as I putter around my house, that other people (and older than me) have an actual factual life. They go to work, and socialize, and raise a family and do things while I sit here and waste away. But for me, it’s my mind that’s most important. I try to keep it working, as difficult as that is becoming, with hobbies like music, research that will never be published and writing books that will barely sell at all.
For the most part, I don’t play a lot of video games. I have two great gaming systems that have become, as I predicted they would, magnets for dust as my body decays away. But there are a few simple games, and I’ll spend maybe an hour or two a day on them. One of the “games” is not really a game per se, but rather the electronic tablet equivalent of puzzles. As it turns out, the programmers didn’t use a randomizer, so once I add the edge pieces, there are seven pieces I can add quickly and easily based on shape to advance my edge further still. Today’s puzzle had a beige, almost white left side of the entire puzzle. As I put it together, I realized that the pieces I was grabbing from the “random” pile to fill in this side of the puzzle all looked snow white to me. It wasn’t until I move the piece to the puzzle board when, in comparison with the pieces already placed, I realized that they weren’t white at all. They had a subtlety to their shade, and my eyes couldn’t pick it up until it was close to the rest of the puzzle.
Life is like this. Too many people see the world as black and white, as if all of the pieces on the left were white rather than very slightly colored. Recently I republished a meme that was, frankly, far more harsh than I would have liked although I agreed with the sentiment. The meme pointed out that vaccine mandates was causing teachers who don’t believe in science to lose their jobs, nurses who don’t trust medicine to lose their jobs, and police officers who don’t care about public safety to lose their jobs all of which can be considered to be good things. But the post was written in such harsh terms that it was just too stark. It ignored people with legitimate reasons not to get the vaccine such as those with autoimmune or other legitimate medical problems. Sometimes, it’s not just what is said, but how it is said.
Back when I taught criminal justice, I challenged my students to think about drug addicts. It’s a topic that is very easy to see as black and white. You’re on drugs, you break the law. What’s missing in that message is why somebody might be on drugs. I find it difficult to blame people whose life is so bad, victims of poverty and abuse, to what an escape from reality. You can also be too lenient, of course, which can lead to further issues especially when chemical abuse puts others at risk.
I often wonder if other people see color the same way that I do. After all, once our optical nerves have been tickled it becomes the job of the brain to interpret what the color is. When I see red, what if somebody else would see it as, say, green? A friend of mine has a very special kind of color blindness where, they say, he sees colors but not in the same way as the rest of us. Those slight shade differences appear to him as stark as black and white to others. It’s always difficult to see color through the eyes of another. I’m retired today because students rallied to get me fired from my job. I thought I was a good teacher and quite skilled as a matter of fact, but I wonder what they saw. Is their interpretation, one wherein I needed to be fired and driven out of education altogether, any less legitimate than my vision of the work I was doing?
I find it interesting that people who seem most desperate to make everybody see the world as they do are also those who tend to be myopic. Not only do they refuse to see shades of reality, but they refuse to acknowledge that others could possibly be correct if others see things differently. The big news today is the announcement of a new social media platform. Interestingly, it uses “truth” as part of its title, the irony of which is that it’s being started by people who have been proven, time and again, to push lies and conspiracy theories. Roughly a third of our population also tend to follow them, a true indictment of our society as a whole. As for me, I think I’ll be happier looking for the subtle shades.