Girl two approached my kitchen sink with a question.
Is tube vision a real disease?
I asked to have the question repeated.
Girl one and are arguing and I want to know if tube vision is a real disease.
Light dawned on marble head. Do you mean tunnel vision? I asked.
Yeah. Tunnel vision. Anyway, is it a real disease?
I explained that the way she’d heard it was an expression. A minute or so later she was back with an empty toilet paper roll held over her eye.
See, Mom? Tube vision. I have tube vision. She left laughing, the tube still over her eye.
I sat down and wrote her a letter for another day.
Dear Girl two,
I don’t want to scare you but the truth is, tube vision is a real disease. Just like a cold, everybody gets tube vision once in a while. Just like cancer, tube vision can take over your whole life.
The dangerous version of tube vision is pretty much an adult disease. People wait a long time to become grown-ups. They are very happy when their teacher and their parents stop telling them what to do. But then they find out that instead of three people telling them what to do, there are almost a hundred (people who make you pay taxes, your boss, your boss’s boss, your boss’s boss’s boss, people who make you buy snow tires, house insurance, car insurance, people who make you redo the tile around your woodstove … the list is very long). That is annoying, but not as annoying as the fact that the things everyone tells you to do when you are a grown-up are easy things. All the hard things, no one tells you anything. You have to figure them out by yourself. This is the basic job of being a grown up: get up, do what people tell you, guess the answers to really hard questions and go to bed wondering if you should have guessed differently. As you can imagine, the stress of all this can cause tube vision.
Kids, woods, frogs, or a river to watch and listen to, these things (or things like them) can prevent tube vision. They are also effective treatments. Healthy people require quiet places. In order to stay healthy, people also need to be interrupted with the laughter of the unexpected. People with tube vision can recover if they see a bird try to catch a bug through a screen and stop to watch it cock it’s head confused that the fly is right there but somehow not going into its beak.
People have tube vision because looking through a tube makes the world smaller and less scary. Problems feel smaller when you look through a tube. That is the reason that everyone, including you and I, will get tube vision. Sometimes we might not even want to get cured of it.
The reason to get rid of it is that the world is scary but it is also full of laughter and surprises. Tube vision can’t make scary things go away, it can only make them feel like they’re not there. But by making everything so small, tube vision takes away our windows to surprises and laughter.
Kids are good medicine because they are experts at putting the windows back. That’s how they help grown-ups not get sick from tube vision. You have always been good at that. And you guessed it: tube vision is a lot like looking through a toilet paper roll.