Ekphrastic poetry reading
PSA: RHR is coming to town

Through a stereoscope, darkly

As a kid, I had what we called a lazy eye: one eye wandered, without volition. Eventually a pair of surgeries were required to correct it. As a result, I spent a lot of time at opthamologists' offices with an opaque plastic circle over first one eye, then the other, trying to explain and understand what I saw. My eyes offer different pictures of the world even now -- color tones vary slightly from one eye to the next. (When I'm using both eyes in concert, the dominant eye chooses the color palette.)

That turns out to be a good metaphor for how I'm relating to the ongoing investigation of my health. Through one eye, I see a reality in which the strokes suggest something sinister, and merit continuing exploration with every tool at our disposal. Through the other eye, I see a reality in which the strokes arose out of a combination of hormones, hypertension, and medication, which means they were a one-time thing (okay, a three-time thing), and now that we've addressed those factors they suggest no reason for continuing concern.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it's difficult to reconcile those two views of the world. It's like looking through a stereoscope at two pictures that don't actually match. Trying to focus my eyes on both at once gives me a metaphorical headache. Among other things, this has a fascinating effect on my prayer life. Sometimes it's difficult for me to pray with kavanah because I'm not sure where I'm praying from. (Maybe that's why I resonated so strongly with the Hasidic teachings about equanimity that I blogged about a few months ago.)

We'll be visiting a new specialist in a few weeks, but as the days of the Omer stack up I'm beginning to grapple with the likelihood that these strokes may always be cryptogenic. That answers simply may not exist to be found. In theory I came to terms with that kind of uncertainty last year while working as a hospital chaplain. But learning it internally, applied to my own body and my own life, proves to be its own challenge.

Counting the Omer takes on particular poignancy this year because my appointment with the new specialist falls on the 7th of Sivan. (Following Reform practice I don't observe a second day of Shavuot, but the timing still strikes me.) As we commemorate the ongoing revelation of Torah at Sinai, I'll be hoping for a different kind of revelation -- even as I remind myself that I can't guarantee the revelation that I seek. And neither could our ancestors; who knows what the Israelites thought they were going to get from the Holy Blessed One at Sinai? My task is to be open to revelation in whatever form it takes.

And isn't that always true? On some level we want concrete answers and instructions, simple ones we can understand. Real revelation is messier than that. That's something I value about our holy texts -- that they speak in a variety of voices, that they offer new insights when seen through different lenses. I need to learn to see my body in the same way, to become at least a little bit more comfortable with mystery.

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