EnChroma: Glasses that cure colorblindness

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This is not a testimonial for EnChroma, nor a recounting of someone using it for the first time. Though, I am sure you have all seen the tear-filled videos, where the colorblind individual is first amazed at all the colors they have never known to exist coming to light, the colors that were once hidden from their very perception come flooding in and shortly after, the tears come flooding out. I am mesmerized by these videos and I think I’ve come to understand why.

This shift in perception is not as severe as those gaining the ability to hear for the first time, as these videos are also incredible, but for me these EnChroma videos carry greater weight. Let me explain. These EnChroma glasses show you that you’ve been seeing the world wrong, well…your whole damn life. With the simple donning of these glasses you realize that the reality that you’ve built from your own perceptions is simply false and you were only seeing part of the picture. Talk about eye-opening.

What moves me, of course, is the transition from awe to tears. Now I know that many of these people are experiencing tears-of-joy, but I think that in some cases they are feeling the weight of having been robbed their whole life, of what everyone else simply takes for granted. In either case, I begin to think about this shift in metaphorical relationships.

The best way to become empathetic is to read books. In this instance the books are the EnChroma glasses, and the more diverse characters, circumstances and emotions we experience through reading…the more shades of color we can feel in ourselves and in others. Could you imagine what it would be like if you were a sociopath, had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Empathy Deficit Disorder and putting on a pair of glasses immediately gives you the insight of empathy, that the world you thought was inhabited by automatons is really filled with complex people, like yourself, that feel the full range of emotions that you do. If having these disorders caused you to treat people poorly throughout your life, then you suddenly realize what it must’ve been like for them.  I would expect that this shift would go from a state of awe to those same tears seen in the videos.

What about where you sit on the politics spectrum? Now I’m not going to turn this post into a soapbox for my political views, though I’m sure I could, very easily.  Instead, I would just like to think that if there were glasses that allowed you to see the world from the other end of the spectrum (liberal vs. conservative or democrat vs. republican) that we could make better sense of the issues…from a bipartisan, possibly objective, standpoint. All too often we box ourselves in and are unable to see the truth in something that simply doesn’t fit our political viewpoint. Would the awe still be followed by the tears? Of realizing how we had been robbed of a certain kind of sight, not since birth, but from when we developed our political affiliation?

What about religion? Could you imagine if putting on a pair of glasses gave you the immediate insight of what it meant to belong to a certain religion that was not your own? To have the long view, of how the world and this religion has evolved and has been treated over time. Would we gain an unprecedented level of tolerance for these other religions? What if we take it one step further and develop glasses that allow an atheist to see what the world looks like through the eyes of faith, or a pair that strips it all away and lets you see the universe as a product of physics and science? How would you change as a result? Would you change? Would you weep at the loss of faith, or the loss of empirical evidence being enough?

What if the only pair of glasses we would ever need, that could take us a long way down the road of acceptance of others, was simply a pair that allowed us to love ourselves…unconditionally. If we love ourselves then we can truly begin to love others, and in accepting our flaws we can love others with their flaws, as well. I can love myself with all my shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, and having gained the self-assurance this lends, I won’t have any self-hatred to project onto others. We can all become brothers and sisters in the human race, tearing down the “walls” that divide us and celebrate our differences as those things that make us unique and beautiful.

Unfortunately these glasses don’t exist. Until they do…I’m going to keep on reading books. I’m going to add as many shades of color to my understanding of the human condition and emotions as I can, work on being an empathetic person and try to make ground on loving myself for who I am. I hope you do the same. Good luck!

In the end…

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I had just heard about another life snuffed out too soon. An 8 year old boy, from Cincinnati, commited suicide a couple days after being the victim of bullying. The articles I read spoke of possible security camera footage, and shortly there after the footage was released.

Now, if you have read my post The Abyss, then you know how deeply affected I am by suicide and depression. Just as I needed to step to the edge of the abyss at the loss of two friends who chose to end their lives, and wonder what went through their minds at that moment, or try to conceive what had brought them to that point…there I sat watching a video of a beautiful young man, beaten and left lying on the bathroom, tile floor. I close my eyes and I can still see his legs, unmoving, and my eyes fill with tears. I feel anger boiling up inside myself, I want to reach into the screen and slap those boys awake that brutalized him. Tell them that he didn’t deserve that treatment, that they don’t understand with their still developing minds, just how much damage they are doing to him. But, as angry as I might initially feel, my eyes are drawn back to those legs and I, again, find myself wanting to reach into the screen, but this time to cradle this young man in my arms and tell him that everything can still be okay, despite how he might feel at this moment, that just because some misguided boys chose him as the target of their hatred, that he is still loved. The love his family and friends have for him isn’t erased by these actions. I want to tell him, that even though I only know him now in his passing, that I love him.

Then I start thinking about my two-year-old, mini-me, and I feel awash in 100 different emotions all at once. I am scared for him. I am angry at a world where this happens. I feel a rage that carries the heat of a thousand suns, at the thought that this could someday happen to him and how I would tear the school down, brick by brick, with my bare hands. I think about what I need to do to prepare him for this possibility. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Boxing. Judo. Let him know that he can shield his heart with the knowledge that I love him more that anything in the world and he could get through this even if it meant we walk off into the woods and live the rest of our lives off the grid. Then I want to raise him to know that bullying can’t be allowed to happen, that at the very least he would alert a grownup right away, or put himself at risk by getting in the middle, but then I worry again about what could happen to him, and my head spins and my heart swells to bursting and my eyes blur with the coming tears.

In the end I’m left not knowing what to do, other than write out my frustration.

In the end I gain a piece of understanding how our fragile spirit can be pushed every so easily from the glass menagerie shelf. A piece I felt I needed to know, but now wish I hadn’t.

Gabriel Taye…you are loved.

Corn Soup

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Corn soup is standard fare at my family gatherings.  It is a traditional Native American dish, and I’ll admit…it wasn’t one that I particularly liked, when I was a young child.  How I remembered it, from my youth, was that it tasted very bland and the broth was little more than starchy water.  I avoided it as much as possible growing up, but I would always have a small portion, so as not to be rude.

Now I’m all grown up, sorta…not so if you ask my wife 🙂 and I love it!  Let me be a little more specific about how my taste has matured.  This isn’t one of those situations where you hated onions as a child, but one day you have them on a slice of pizza and it’s like you were having them for the first time, and you can’t understand how you went your whole life without them.  I basically am still not entirely impressed with the flavor of corn soup, though it has gotten better, but I now taste my history in each spoonful.  I sit at a crossroads with every sip, I recognize long lost feelings from my childhood, from the loss of loved ones (as death is often a reason for family to get together) and for the celebration of new life (much better reason to get together).  All of these emotions, these sensory anchors, wash over me like the fading images of a dream slipping from awareness.  I absolutely LOVE corn soup!

My question to you: do you have any similar experiences, food(s) that you eat to connect with your past?  How does eating it make you feel?

The Interview

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He sat in the lobby, rubbing his palms against the tops of his legs. His hands were dry, cracking and red; nervously, he glanced about to see the closest bathroom. Not seeing one, he quickly produced a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer, applies some and winces as he rubs it in thoroughly to his hands. Everyone seems busy in their daily grind, ants moving in and out of tunnels, they weave in and out of their cubicles. It is quiet, people only seem to acknowledge one another with sideways glances, none congregating about the water cooler.

He picks up his leather briefcase and removes a spiral-bound notebook. Flipping through it he skims across company information, mission statements, and questions he has for the interviewer. He feels prepared and a smile creeps across his face. He slips the notebook back into the case and sets it back between his feet. His shoes are like mirrors. Four minutes to go, according to the cheap wall clock. He flattens out the visitor badge sticker, that has already begun to curl, on his lapel, which reads ‘DOEL, JOHNATHAN’ in all block letters.

A Jake Blues, John Belushi looking man rounds the corner, carrying a folded manila folder, that rests atop his generous midsection. Dark suit, dark tie, mutton chops…all he is missing is the fedora. Johnathan immediately rises.

“Mr. Pierce, so good to meet you.”

Slightly startled, Pierce thrusts out his hand in greeting, but a pause on Johnathan’s part brings about the slightest micro-expression of indignation and concern, which doesn’t go unnoticed. Johnathan reciprocates, with a friendly, wide, tooth exposing smile.

“Sorry…flu season.”

“My office is this way,” Pierce says, his attention brought back to the folder’s contents.

They make their way along the narrow aisles between the cubicles, Pierce still flipping through application materials. Johnathan is glancing about, identifying people by memory from their LinkedIn profile pictures, mouthing their names almost imperceptibly, while discretely sanitizing his hands, once again..

Pierce turns left into an open door, with Johnathan trailing right behind. The office has a window that offers a view of the vast parking area and in the distance a liquor and adult book store combo sits at a crossroads. A cactus, turning brown from neglect, sits on the sill. A few scant family photos sit about in frames on the desk and on the waist-high bookcase, that holds three-ringed binders full of procedures and mandated trainings. A binder, with the title “Cultural Sensitivity,” written in sharpie, looks slightly pulled out from the rest. His wife, in the pictures, is very cute, but she and Pierce seem to lean away from one another in all but the oldest pictures.

“It says here that you have your Project Management Professional certification…?”

“Yes, though I have to admit that the ink is still dry on that one. I have done a few projects in advance of getting the certification, though. Mostly I’ve been involved in conducting hiring events, software upgrades and implementing a new inventory tracking system, which required assigning lot numbers to all sub-components and finished goods.”

“Very nice. Now I attempted to check on a couple of your older workplaces, that you had listed, but was unable to get a hold of anyone to verify…”

“Yes. I know exactly which ones you’re referring to. Jamesway went out of business less than a year after I left and that private insurer was bought out by a national level company and they purged their records after seven years, which was like two years ago.”

“Oh…okay. Now it says that you have a fairly active volunteering background. Is that correct?”

“Oh yes! I’m glad you brought that up, as I was wondering if there are times that I need to lend a hand at the local animal shelter, if I can make up the time on the weekend? Animals are very near and dear to my heart.”

“Wow…same here! I actually volunteer at a nearby, no-kill shelter. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there!”

“Hey…I’ll have to look that place up, if I get the position, as I’ll probably be moving to this area. I’m sure I’ll still drop in on the old gang from time to time, though.”

Pierce flips back and forth through the file, a slight smile on his face, his head nodding slightly, “Well…I don’t have any more questions, everything seems in order, and if we proceed we’ll do reference checks and get you in for a pre-employment physical and drug testing. Do you have any questions for me?”

“Actually, I have a couple. My first set of questions are about the culture here. How would you describe it, how does personal development fit in, and do you have a plan for every employee?” he leaned back in his seat and adjusted his body positioning to mirror that of Pierce.

“Good questions! I guess you could say that we fall in the adhocracy spectrum, perhaps leaning toward a clan culture. We definitely believe in empowerment and an…ask forgiveness later, rather than seek permission now…spirit of innovation. As for a plan…for each employee? We definitely have career ladders and succession planning, but really we write blank checks for employees and their personal development. It’s probably our best retention tool.”

“Fantastic! I will definitely take advantage of that…if hired. My only other question is, just how did a phenomenal position like this become open? I mean, this is really a dream job for the right person.”

“Well, the gentleman that had the position before passed away suddenly. He had only been with us for three years. We are all still reeling from it. It was actually good timing on your part, having submitted an application when you did, as you are our first interview and, off the record, might save us a lot of time filtering through other applications and interviews, as promising as you are. Plus, you applied before he passed, so you’re not one of those obituary vultures.”

“Oh, wow…I’m glad to hear that—off the record—and hope that I can fill his shoes and hit the ground running. Yeah, I never understood the practice of trolling the obits for job opportunities…just seemed so…so opportunistic. I pride myself in being proactive. Anyway, I can’t wait to wrap my arms around the position, work on my cross-functionality and get some cohesion with the group. I’m really not big on sand-boxing or hoarding knowledge. Oh…Frank’s passing must be why everyone seems so despondent. They all must be grieving the loss.”

“I’m sure there is some of that, but I think that there is quite a bit of guilt, as well. Frank was probably the only square peg in the place. Almost everyone out there wished at one point or other that Frank would move on, yeah…move on is probably the best way to put it. Strangely enough, he was big on pointing out when someone was stepping in his sandbox, and he always kept his cards close to chest. It’ll be a breath of fresh air having someone in this position who believes as you do. As the rest of us do.”

“Well, Mr. Pierce—”

“—You can call me Roger, ” he says with a broad smile.

“Well, Roger, I don’t have any more questions at this time, though if any come up between now and when you get through checking references, I will surely call you.”

“Awesome! You’ll be hearing from me by the end of next week, either way,” he says with a wink.

Johnathan makes his way out of the building, stopping momentarily at the reception desk, to give thanks for assistance. He walks out, crosses the parking lot, and gets inside his car. He closes his eyes and smiles.

* * *

Johnathan sits at a bar and orders a drink. Glancing over at the guy sitting next to him he notices a company issued, name tag on his lapel. Axiom Industries. QUARRY, ROGER. He orders Roger a drink.

* * *

Johnathan walks into the same bar and gives Roger a wave as he takes off his coat and hangs it on a rack. He signals the bartender with two fingers and points back and forth between himself and Roger.

* * *

Johnathan is assisting a very drunk George up the stone stairs that lead to George’s colonial, which sits at the end of a cul-de-sac. He reaches into George’s pocket and pulls out his keys, flips through them to find the right one, but hesitates. He looks at George. He wipes the keys off with his scarf, presses the keys into George’s hand, then shakes them loose onto the entryway. Holding George by the lapels, he backs him to the edge of the stone stairway.

“Thanks, George.”

He lets go.