23 April 2014

Eye Exercise

I think it was last week. Someone sent me an article about exercising your eyes. I didn't think much of it but was curious and sure enough, 10 minutes later I was doing the eye exercises described in the article. It got me thinking though. Why do we not exercise our eyes? They are, after all, a muscle. We work our other muscles, in gyms, jogging, swimming, yoga, pilates, tai chi...even vocal exercises. Why not exercise our eyes? They're kind of important no?

Anyhow, it's been niggling in my mind for days. I'd rather exercise my eyes than wear glasses or contacts. Having recently joined the four-eyed club with a prescription for reading glasses, I now understand the difference between good and bad eyesight. And, glasses (although sometimes a cute accessory) suck! I think glasses are weakening my eyes. After I wear them, my vision is worse than before. Yes, I need them to read books but maybe an e-reader with large font is a better idea. I digress.

Today is when it all began to make sense...the annoyance, the niggling, the curiosity. I was in a meeting at work with some colleagues and some international students. We were meeting about a college program that sends employees overseas for short-term individual volunteer placements. We were talking about what people in different countries think of Canada...and the difference between Canada and their country. Everyone in the room had an opinion because every one of us has gone on overseas placements, or relocated, or experienced some sort of work or personal travel to Asia, Africa, South America, Middle East, etc. We all have had experiences abroad that were eye-opening and mind-broadening. We all had on some level exercised our minds culturally, intellectually and socially.

Now think about it. We are told that our eyes, over time, harden and become more rigid. We become unable to focus on things near or far so we go to the eye doctor. A specialist! The eye doctor examines us and, if we're not 20/20, gives us a prescription. The eye doctor then tells us it is likely our eyes will get worse over time so expect to return in a year or so for another prescription...on and on it goes. What the eye doctor does NOT do is suggest eye exercises instead of buying glasses. Instead the eye doctor advises us to close our eyes and rest our eyes regularly. Ha!

Examinations! Prescriptions! Lenses! Resignation! Bah. How familiar. When I applied the same line of thought about eyesight to cultural competence it dawned on me that our society would rather us wear 'glasses' than take the time and effort to exercise our minds, even though the results would be far more favourable.

Consider this...what might our society look like if we all had some intensive experience in a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture or language? Would we need to have diversity policies, cultural counseling or inclusiveness courses? Or would we not need these 'prescriptions' because we all would be exercising our minds in a way that would help us to understand that we are all different and that different is not bad or fearful, it's good. Would we be as dependent on government to give us the rules on how to behave fairly and without prejudice? Would the government be as capable of instilling fear and hatred in us? I think it would make a huge difference.

When we try to correct a problem in an unnatural way (prescriptions) we risk becoming dependent on something originating from authority (specialists), and this dependence compounds.We relinquish our power and surrender without taking the time or making the effort to correct the problem ourselves. We capitulate and, in the end, lose a lot more than we had expected. Meanwhile the authority lines its pockets with our gold and controls us with false promises of security or support.

Prescriptions are mechanisms of control and they ought to be the very, very last resort in ANY situation. Policies, laws and processes are designed to keep us in line so we'll be compliant thus easier to control. Effort would be much better spent on learning programs that give us opportunities to exercise our minds than on policies that close our eyes and keep us in the dark.

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