I don’t use the word “miracle” often. But, I think it’s the best word to describe my change in vision post-surgery last week. As my current eye doctor described it, “It’s not that either of your eyes are that bad, it’s just that you wouldn’t usually find them on the same person.” Or in the words of my childhood eye doctor explaining why I needed my first eye surgery 40 years ago, “it’s as if one of your eyes is a circle and the other is a triangle.”
The recent surgery brought two immediate and dramatic changes. With the addition of bifocals last year (ah, the joys of aging) my eyes were tired, tired, tired – and I lived with a constant eye-strain headache. I awoke after the post-surgery nap, and the headache was gone. Poof. Vanished. I also gained depth perception. I had been told my brain was often using one eye at a time, but to actually experience the world with new depth was unexpected and, frankly, miraculous.
I didn’t know that I couldn’t see.
To shift from the literal to the metaphorical: At its best, a liberal arts education proffers similar results. As the influential 19th century French author Marcel Proust wrote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” For me, reading “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in my freshman English composition class launched such a voyage of discovery. Confronting the ongoing history of American racism through King’s letter, changed the way I saw my country and myself and continues to goad my lifelong journey to understand the ways religion intersects with oppression and justice.
My first public outing with my “new eyes” was CSU, Bakersfield’s Alumni Hall of Fame Gala where we recognize alumni whose accomplishments and careers have brought honor and distinction to the University. Each recipient spoke eloquently of how CSU, Bakersfield changed how they saw themselves, their potential, and made possible their ability to make the contributions to their community for which they were honored.
This Friday, we will be honoring more recent graduates through The CSUB Alumni Rising Runner program. I look forward to moderating a conversation for our current undergraduates with the four honorees and particularly look forward to meeting Tyree Boyd-Pates, the Rising Runner selected by the Chairs Council of Arts and Humanities.
Tyree has recently blogged on his own encounter with King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, which is worth reading along with his interview for AHA on his experience at CSU, Bakersfield.
You may not be a Rising Runner or a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame (yet!), but you may also have a story of how your educational experience at CSU, Bakersfield gave you “new eyes,” so to speak. We’d love to hear from you. Post a reply, email us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and if you’re in town, come to the Homecoming BBQ this Saturday, February 25th, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. We will be at the Arts & Humanities tent near Science III.
We all have a perspective to share.
Dr. Robert Frakes
Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities