I had been feeling for some time that I needed to get a stronger prescription for my glasses. This feeling had grown to a certainty and seemed urgent. But it proved difficult to go to the Polish oculist in London who has looked after my eyes since I was a boy as he has mostly retired and I felt a little anxious about the long gap in my regular checkup.
So, when I was spending an extended time of teaching in Singapore, I decided to break with old custom and get my eyes checked there. The shop in a small mall was pokey, cluttered and downmarket. The eccentric Chinese oculist who avoided looking me in the eye until he was examining my eyes did not inspire confidence. If he had been doing anything more than testing my eyes I would have found an excuse to leave. I missed my old trusted friend in London. I wondered if this man was really a shoe salesman standing in for his friend the real oculist or a fisherman who tested eyes part time.
After the examination he made an undecipherable grunt and started putting away his lenses. As he made to leave the room without further comment I quickly asked him if he could prepare new glasses for me before I left Singapore. He shot a look at me and said ‘not needed’ and left. I followed him and confirmed that according to his test my present glasses were perfectly alright. ‘But..’ I began to say and then asked ‘how much?’ ‘Nothing’.
Then his eccentric manner and strange way of doing business came into focus. I realised that I trusted him and saw his skill and integrity. I thought maybe I had probably been wrong about my eyes weakening and true enough things looked clearer when I walked out into the sunlight.
It is easy to convince ourselves of something that is not true, to blur our own vision of reality. This is the most dangerous form of illusion because believing in something sincerely makes it easier to convince others it is true. Whole societies and major institutions can walk the primrose path to disaster this way as happened in the last financial crisis.
To encounter a prophet is to meet someone who tells the truth just as he sees it and who is also right. It helps to trust them that they have no vested interest or desire to please. The truth is enough for them. To see clearly we see through their eyes.
‘We however possess the mind of Christ’.