I enjoy flying into a city at night. The lights twinkle and it makes the area look vibrant and beautiful. From a distance any city looks magical. No reason to think it is anything other than a sparkling wonder. Until you land, that is, and see what can’t be seen from far away.
I watched with bittersweet fascination as the tour boat we had been travelling on all day returned to the harbor just after midnight, and witnessed the beauty of millions of lights dancing in the reflection of the water. Bittersweet because I knew that within the next number of minutes that beautiful picture would become one of darkness and despair when the shimmering harbor was replaced by the bleakness of the severely impoverished neighborhoods we would drive through on the way back to the hotel. Things look one way from a distance, but far different the closer you get.
When I take pictures I leave the initial shot as it first appears but then check out the image after I zoom in. Finer details emerge, perhaps even revealing something completely unseen from further away. It’s changed how we watch TV.
When high definition was first available it provided a much sharper image of whatever people were watching. For sports—it was great. For some celebrities it proved a challenge. The picture was so clear that signs of aging and skin imperfections were now dramatically visible. One media outlet responded with a list of TV personalities who looked better, and those who looked worse, in high-def. Those coming out on the positive side of that first list 15 years ago were Jessica Alba, Anna Kournikova and Halle Berry; while those not faring as well were Teri Hatcher, Bill Clinton and David Letterman. Those putting the lists together remarked, “HDTV will soon change our view of who’s beautiful and who’s not. The picture is up to six times clearer than regular TV; it’s like seeing these people in real-life. And some of them don’t look very good.” A rather harsh analysis, but I think it points to something else that needs our attention. Just as HDTV may provide a clearer and, we could argue, more accurate picture, it is also the case that when we take the time to zoom in on situations in our lives we begin to see things as they really are—not just the way we wish they might be.
I was visiting a friend several years ago after she’d been married for a number of years. From all outward appearances things looked just fine, but as we talked late into the night she shared the cracks in the façade. I hadn’t seen them, but as we zoomed in on each issue it was clear that what could be seen from a distance was far different than what was happening up close. She was doing what so many seem to think they need to do—look shimmery and vibrant from the outside so no one will suspect what’s happening on the inside.
What a sad…and unnecessary…state. At the very time we need each other most we put up the fake picture and cross our fingers in hope no one zooms in. Meantime we are white-knuckling our way through pain, heartache, confusion and sadness—and just when others could provide some support, we keep them at a distance. Afraid to let them see what is really going on, because of course…what would people think?
Well, often what they think is, I’m so sorry. How can I help? I could be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and arms to embrace to provide assurance you are not alone in this. Because where you—so many others are as well. If we talked more about it, and let people see, we’d know that.
The view from a distance might be pretty but it’s when we move in closer that we see the heart…and face…of those who need us to look past the shimmer. That’s when we see what is far more meaningful, because it’s real. And that is so much better than the dazzling image too many think they need to put on display.
Enjoy the view and then zoom in. Let the scars and blemishes shine, not the veneer. It’s a far more interesting picture—and the one that matters most. That’s my outlook.