Max has a remarkably expressive face, particularly his eyes. Though I may never really know what is going on in his brain, I think I can make a pretty good guess as to how he is feeling.
Sometimes, he seems confused. I can tell by the way his eyes are cast that he just doesn’t fully know what’s going on, like in the past when I have rearranged furniture or when I start talking to him in goofy voices. And Max has taught me that it is natural to furrow my brow in confusion when I naively misunderstand something about the world.
Sometimes, he is clearly anxious. I can tell by his eyes that he knows exactly what’s going on and is worried about it, like when I pack bags to go on a trip and he knows that he’ll be left alone, or when I pack boxes to move the whole house to a completely unknown place. And Max has taught me that it is natural to stare open-eyed in anxious anticipation of something that is likely not to turn out well.
Sometimes, he is longing for something out of reach. I can tell by his eyes when he desperately wants to go outside or eat more food. And Max has taught me that it is natural to gaze longingly at a hoped-for outcome that suddenly seems so distant.
Max has taught me that I can turn my eyes a lot of different ways in times like these – to the ground in despair, unfixed in the distance in apathy and hopelessness, or toward the “other” in anger. He has taught me that it is a natural reaction and that in many ways, my eyes do convey the state of my soul.
But Max has also taught me that I have control of my eyes and that I can cast them where and how I desire. And he has taught me that how I cast my eyes will direct what I take in and where I go.
So, while my eyes have been turned in many ways the past few days, Max has taught me the importance of lifting them up from being grounded in despair. He has taught me to stop staring off in the apathetic distance. He has taught me that I can peer angrily at problems and the people who perpetuate them, as long as the cataracts of hate do not begin to cloud my vision. And so he has taught me to open my eyes wide in compassionate love so that I might literally take into my mind and body the images of as many people as possible, so that I might take in the awful complexity of a broken and beautiful world.
This is aspirational and it means I probably need glasses to provide the hope that I can’t seem to squint hard enough to see myself. Max has also taught me that eyes can fail, that the scope of my vision is limited. There are many times he does not even notice a car coming down the street on our walks. And so he has taught me to perceive this world alongside many others who can see what I don’t, and he has taught me to use resources and people who can help add color and clarity to my short-sightedness.
Finally, Max has taught me that eyes are vulnerable. Sometimes, when scratching his head, he turns abruptly and my finger pokes his eye. I hate when that happens because I know it must hurt, but it reminds me how soft eyes are. It reminds me that when eyes or hearts or souls are hardened, they take in a distorted picture of the world and lead to distorted outcomes. There are too many hard-set eyes and hearts – I need to keep mine vulnerable and loving.
So, thank you Max for assuring me that it is natural when my eyes drift down in despair, off in hopelessness, or become furrowed in anger. But thank you also for teaching me to lift those eyes in loving compassion that can help bring hope into richer focus.