Yet Untitled 019 - I can see clearly now?
The drama of getting reading glasses
Hello there, lovely Yet Untitlers,
This photograph of Vani conveys how I saw myself the moment I was told at the optician’s that I’ll need +1 strength reading glasses. Sure - some of you spec-veterans may see this as an over-reaction; but I say to you - what’s life without a little bit of drama? If at all, it’s a distraction from the heat over here in India!
Welcome back to instalment 019 - which means 19 weeks of publishing - on the dot - on Friday, 6:30pm! In millennial-speak, I think what we have ourselves here is a streak! Pat on your back. Pat on mine. Handshake at 020. Whispering it, so that the thought isn’t disturbed in its delicate process of manifestation 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼.
Presbyopia is what it’s called - l learned. Sounds like an a medical condition where a Presbyter feels compelled to write their autobiography.
It’s a word that eluded me all this time, as has really registering who among my friends already wears glasses. I found myself imagining everyone’s faces with and without glasses, unsure which version was correct. I knew, but at the same time, I didn’t. It was weird. Hadn’t I seen them all my lives with their glasses? Finally, I had to cross-reference with photographs.
According to Buddhism, our perception of the world isn’t dependent on our senses alone. The eyes surely see, but eyes on the head of an impatient or careless person fail to see the bunch of keys they’re looking for that are literally lying right in front of them. This happens, no? Drawing from this, the conclusion is that it is the condition of our lives that contributes as much to what we see as do our eyes.
This was comforting to hear. Especially after my elder brother told me that it’s all downhill from here, all the way till erectile dysfunction! I countered this in my head by evoking Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’. Forget blurry vision, complete blindness didn’t stop that man. Interestingly, someone like him who had access to such a strong life condition still succumbed to despair, up until he found a purpose in life - being there for his young friend, as we see towards the end of the film.
That’s what Buddhism says as well - our ticket to a strong life condition is seeing the happiness of ourselves and others as our purpose, and taking action towards the same. It’s because of principles like this we get a speech like that 👉
Pre-Presbyopia Drama (with spectacles)
Even if you thought it was enough drama with my ‘Scent of a Woman’ references, here’s some more:
BKS Iyengar on ‘the fear of death’
Some years ago, I had read a photographer’s account of visiting yoga maestro BKS Iyengar at his institute in Pune, Maharashtra. As per my memory, BKS has stood in front of a novice practitioner who was showing reluctance to drop back into a back bridge.
“What you see here, is the fear of death,” Iyeangar had commented.
A back bend entails a leap of faith into the unknown, because your eyes see forwards, not backwards. Not knowing your body’s limits of pliability, not knowing how far you are from the ground - all pull your mind into the grip of fear, and thereafter the mind pulls the body into a response of un-pliability, or even paralysis.
I’d love 20-20 vision and an able body for all of my days, but I know I won’t have this particular wish granted. For that I’d have to be bitten by a radioactive spider, like how Peter Parker was bitten in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. That was one hickey that lost him his glasses (skip forward to 1:23 in the video) and gave him washboard abs on top of it!
I think I felt a tinge of what that novice yoga practitioner felt when I was at the opticians’. I think I feel some version of it when I see the grey streaks in my hair as well. Not that it’s alarming, but it’s definitely Alarming’s Distant Cousin.
Wanting Alarming’s Distant Cousin to calm the f**k down, I turn to Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s thoughts on Youth and Ageing, and get inspired. He says:
The real meaning of youth has nothing to do with physical age. In Buddhist terms, youth means to consistently maintain an open, flexible and tolerant mind.
Just look at the eternally youthful BKS in the video below, at 54. If he did not have an open, flexible and tolerant mind, he would never have been able to see his ailing younger self - which was afflicted with all sorts of physical limitations - and work towards transforming him into the amazing master we know him to be.
I take it as a cue to take a deep breath and seek the BKS and the Ikeda in my life alongside my weekly drama on the canvas of this newsletter.
Vanity (and how Leonard deals with it)
I grew up being constantly complimented for my eyes - they’re light brown and appear greenish in direct light. So, the thought of hiding them behind something does not immediately appeal to me. It’s me saying - “Why are you taking this away from me?”.
This response reveals a lot - the common tendency to blame anything undesirable on someone else, to begin with. I see it happening around me all the time, and I always call it out. Time to call it out for myself now.
With respect to any sort of vanity, Leonard Cohen’s amazing, sardonic humility always stands in the way of me becoming too proud of anything. In ‘Tower of Song’ - Cohen speaks about ‘aching in the places where (he) used to play”; and be “crazy for love” but “not coming on” - i.e matters far more alarming that putting pretty peepers behind sheets of glass.
I love the fact that Cohen can laugh about it, and it’s a huge thing to hear him sing this song towards the end of his life. The entire performance in this video should be regarded as a treasure of humanity in my opinion! Do listen from start to finish and prepare to be delighted.
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Coming from a guy who grew a beard to hide his baby face and be taken more seriously (yes, a confession), glasses do a few things for my outwardly appearance that I don’t mind. It works with the whole ‘writer’ thing. If that’s who I am, and it fits, then why the hell not?
So, like Johnny Cage from the unforgettable first Mortal Kombat film, I might as well own it. Now Johnny Cage is a man who loved his glasses, even thought he operated at a pretty high price point! To understand what the hell I’m talking about, scrub to 0:18 of the video to see the wonderful four-armed Goro crush cage’s sunglasses, then to 2:00 to hear the immortal lines:
Those were $500 sunglasses, a**hole!
That’s all for today, folks. See you next week. Same Untitled time, Same Untitled Channel.
By the way - What makes you feel old? And more importantly, What makes you feel young?
Tell me. I want to know!
PS - Being Seen
Seeing is one thing, but being seen is something equally important and worth reflecting upon. I watched a great reflection on being seen in Modern Love Mumbai which just dropped on Amazon Prime Video today. The whole series is great but look out for my friend Alankrita Srivastav’s episode “I Love My Wrinkles” in particular.