“Sir…umm…if you don’t mind…umm…may I clean your glasses? They’re obstructing…umm…the energy in your eyes. In the close-up, I mean.”
Everyone in the room laughed. The author I was interviewing for a documentary looked straight at the quite visibly embarrassed cameraperson and said a deep, sonorous “No.”
Everyone laughed again. My cameraperson friend put up an embarrassed smile and went around trying to find an angle where the natural light from window did not accentuate the smudges on the author’s glasses.
“Maybe we should discuss this when the camera is rolling,” the author said.
“The glasses, you mean?” I asked, not immediately getting where the author was taking this.
“Yeah. You could ask me why I don’t clean them.”
“Because you’re so focused on writing that you’re oblivious to them? That’s a bit of a cliché these days. We can focus on other stuff that make you interesting.”
“No, no. That’s not the reason at all. It’s very intentional. Part of my whole intentional living concept. This will be a good segway into that discussion.”
I shrugged and agreed. Nothing to lose anyway – if it turns out to be yet another idiosyncrasy of an eccentric writer, it will be good entertainment. And if it is plain mundane, we’d just edit the part out.
When the camera finally rolled, after a few initial introductory exchanges, I shot him the smudgy glasses question.
“It’s a reminder to be 1% kinder to other people. The smudges remind me that the dirt is not on the object I’m seeing, but on the lens I’m seeing it through. Because this happens day in and day out, I have learned to extend it to human interactions as well. I mean, when I perceive something negative about another person, I ask myself if the smudge is on the person’s intention or in the lens I’m seeing them through – my biases, my limited understanding of them, and so forth. This way I can see more good in them.”
“Honestly, it sounds a bit corny. But I get why it works for you. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to say it to anyone who points at my own smudgy glasses.”
We both laughed and still smiling the author said, “Sure sure, go ahead. If looking good matters more to you than actually seeing good, that is.”
I’ll admit I was a bit stung by that. I had a retort ready – somehow I am fast with sharp comebacks – and wanted to field that as a question immediately. But the author beat me to it.
“Aha…you’re hurt, aren’t you? Now you want to ask a difficult question that will put me on the spot. Used to happen a lot with me when I was in your shoes all those years ago. Now, ask yourself if I said what I said with the malicious intent of hurting you, or whether you’re hurt because it touched your own insecurity about looking good.”
The segment never made it to the final cut of the documentary, but once in a while when I am cleaning my glasses, the episode pops back into my head.