And after all, underlining all else, there was this sadness to endure.

But first he didn’t understand this shadow. The vase, with that light source, should not have cast it so big and misshapen and dark.

It unnerved him. Much more than it should have. With further examination he knew it would be explained. But going to even such trivial lengths was unacceptable.

He once was getting an eye exam, the first since his early school days. The optometrist flicked between lenses, one then another, asking him which was clearer, one or two. Then at the end she flipped the last two and he immediately discerned a difference, but couldn’t tell which was clearer.

She took his hesitation not as confusion but as reluctance, as if he might prefer the less clear of the two. He was incredulous. Surely no one chooses the less clear. She told him that on the contrary some people have preferred the slightly less clear.

He was struck by the metaphorical value of such preference. Self-delusion. Confirmation bias. People’s tendency to avoid harsh realities and cling to comforting fantasies. Plain old obstinacy. Or it just could be that people, after living too long with bad eye sight, procrastinating too long going to the eye doctor, are shocked by the crisp vividness of optimal vision.

But self-deluding or not, he had to admit and, as the wonky shadow attested, things remain murky no matter how many eye doctors you go to. The world is mercilessly opaque.

He averted his stare from the shadow cast on the wall and looked at the shadow of the chair on the floor. To his relief it was as it should have been.

He went with the clearest lenses by the way. The until recently myopic get used to the newfound clarity quickly. But for the first day he was amazed at finding what had been missing.

And that was it. He had lost so much that never came back as he traversed the world.

All those things he had slowly lost throughout the years. The people drifting away, coming and going, his health naturally, but also his spirit, if you are one to believe in such things, which he was, though he didn’t know what exactly it was to be lost. But surely something had gone awry deep within him.

But then he thought, maybe it is only superficial. Who was he to say? Perhaps that is the problem right there, he thought. But again how would he know?

The problems obviously spiraled in on each other, and got backed up in the queue like so many orderly British folk.

Would he want the clearest lenses to find out what ailed him? Again, he didn’t really fucking know. And again that must be the problem. And again it spiraled inward/outward into meaningless and analysis paralysis.

So he stopped. He stopped thinking about it. What exactly was this ‘it’, it didn’t matter because he stopped analyzing things to absurd levels.

Socrates’ advice to know thyself, while a noble goal, is a fool’s errand. The mind is a jumble of emotions and impulses, barely grasped by one’s consciousness, yet alone understood.

After one last look at the curious shadow, which remained so, he stood up and left the room. It was dark out, all was in shadow.

That sadness to be endured. It is there and there it will remain, inexplicable, unconquerable, defying all examination.

 


 

Brian Brunson studied history and philosophy at the University of Oregon. His work has been published by Literary Juice and The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. He currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his cat, also named Brian.

To read more pieces that could have been written by Franz Kafka if he had been an optometrist, order Four Chambers 01 here.