In the early 1990s, I accepted a position as a technical director or a prototype sonar for Navy ships. I had turned down such positions over the years for a number reasons, one of which was the requirement that directors participate in the periodic sea tests of the equipment. Engineers returned from these tests with tales of ridiculously long hours, claustrophobic living conditions and adventures in seasickness from high seas, none of which were high on my list of work priorities. My supervisor convinced me, however, that I needed this kind of experience on my resume. The seasickness worried me most so I asked my doctor to prescribe seasickness patches just in case. Several experienced ship riders warned me about the side effects of the patches and in particular something they called Tunnel Vision. Still, at the first sign of rough water, I put on a patch and continued working, happy to have no sign of sea sickness. After hours of staring at a computer monitor, though, someone called to me from across the Control Room, and when I looked up, it was as if I was looking at the room through a cardboard tube. I had Tunnel Vision, a very disturbing visual phenomenon that triggered a full-fledged panic attack, landing me in sick bay. The ship’s medical officer removed the patch, cleaned the spot with alcohol, and gave me a sedative. I awoke six hours later with my vision restored and went back to work. Interestingly, I found that the secret to avoiding seasickness for me was keeping my stomach full of food. At the height of the storm, when the waves reached 40-50 feet, you’d find us in the ships galley, happily eating ice cream as the chairs slid back and forth across the room.
Sometimes, I get a different kind of Tunnel Vision. It seems to be my nature that sometimes all I see are the problems I have to solve, the issues that are bothering me and the things on my to-do list. Oh, yeah, and the annoying people around me. In order to see the big picture at such times, Melodie Beattie recommends that we take time to Touch the Eternal. She says:
Visit the places that remind you of eternity when you can. See the mountains. See the stars. Walk among the ancient redwoods. Stand at the ocean’s door. Let nature and life remind you of eternity in ways that speak to your soul.
My park was filled with noisy kids and boisterous family reunions yesterday, so I moved my chair down by the lake where I could watch the geese navigate from shore to shore and an occasional tern plummet to the water’s glassy surface for a fish. I took a ride along the river and watched the egrets fishing among the reeds. As I was putting my bike back in the trunk, a pair of bluebirds collected grass for a nest and a robin cocked its head, listening for worms in the grass. By the time I left, I noticed those annoying kids were pretty cute and those family reunions looked like a lot of fun.
I can’t always make it to the ocean or mountains or redwoods for my glimpse of eternity. I’m fortunate to see eternity in small packages, too, if I take time to look. Where do you see eternity?