Consider the state of mind it takes to have visions of sugarplums dancing in one’s head, a sight of tasty candy ascribed to children in “T’was The Night Before Christmas.” Certainly, that capacity hinges on an imaginative perspective, a rather unique form of vision that lets one see sweetness even when it may not be there.

Vision, and visions of sugarplums, are worth thinking about.

It sure seems right to explore the meaning of 20/20 vision as this holiday season and 2020 come to an end. The numbers 20/20 stand for visual acuity, its sharpness and its clarity. For the sake of fun, let’s say that St. Nick’s acuity is 20/140. The first number is a constant that notes the distance of 20 feet from a Snellen eye chart, the one with the huge letter E at the top, where St. Nick sits to read a line of letters. Or to try, anyway.

The number 140 in Nick’s acuity means that the saintly fellow must sit a close 20 feet away from a chart that his elves can read from 140 feet out. The elves test a normal 20/20 because they see the letters perfectly from 20 feet. Thankfully, sharp vision is within St. Nick’s grasp. His acuity of 20/140 becomes 20/20 with glasses that let him feel jolly.

Whether naturally gifted with 20/20 or blessed by corrections, we’re fortunate when we see well and with clarity. Many who matter to us have lost the capacity to see and or understand and or engage with the world around them. We join them in grieving those losses.

Experts in vision caution against putting too much stock in acuity alone, however, saying that vision’s true strength calls for more — contrast sensitivity, peripheral vision and depth perception. This argument made me pause.

Most of us have faced challenges and losses — or at the very least stresses and changes — during 2020. Their sharpness can pierce the soul. We see them quite clearly. When it comes to my own challenges, it helps me to look back at them now with the strength of human vision.

Contrast sensitivity lets me see that I’ve been spared hunger, homelessness, isolation, unemployment, the inability to visit parents in nursing homes or the need to home-school children while working full time. As I contrast my experiences with these, I can be grateful and more sensitive to others.

Peripheral vision lets me see and acknowledge the actions of individuals who have soothed hurting souls in their environments. I can be moved by their selflessness to act with compassion in perhaps smaller but still real ways.

Depth perception lets me move past the surface of 2020’s sorrows to find deeper meaning in their occurrence. I can reach for a wisdom much greater than mine, hoping for a state of mind that just may let visions of sugarplums dance in my head. A sweetness may be there after all.

Suzanne M. Peloquin lives and works on Galveston Island.

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(1) comment

Raymond Lewis

Good piece Dr. Peloquin. I only want 2020 in the rear view mirror and getting smaller as I head in the opposite direction.

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