Dazzling and Cruel Transitions

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In Pilgram at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes of a patient who was blind since birth but can now see after cataract surgery. There were significant anomalies in their perceptions of space and time. Someone who was trying to learn how to use his new skill would take off one of his boots and throw it out in front of him across the room. He would then try to guess the distance and take a few steps toward it, trying to grab it but missing entirely.

The new sensations of color and light were dazzling for these people, but at the same time, for many of them, also oppressive—it was the realization of “the tremendous size of the world,” Dillard suggests, “something they had previously conceived of as touchingly manageable.” 

My friend Tonia just moved into her own apartment after 30 years of living on the streets. It is in this home that she finds herself feeling more alone and depressed then ever. 

She tells me she just doesn’t know what to do now. She keeps finding herself back out on the street, and says she prays everyday that God would take the “like” out of crack and the hustle. I ask her to say more, and, together, we begin unearthing the role of crack in Tonia’s life. 

Because life on the streets is so cruel and unpredictable, typically, the only thing that has offered her a sense of orientation is the purposed nature of transactions—buying drugs, exchanging sex—that she must engage in to survive along Aurora Avenue. 

Now that Tonia is off the streets, in a different neighborhood with no sense of orientation, it’s kind of like she takes her boot off, throws it across her apartment, walks to get it, and misses it all together. It just doesn’t work anymore.

Tears roll down her face. . . 

. . . new sensations of color and light were dazzling

but the possibility embodied in her apartment, she says, is almost more cruel and oppressive than the streets. 

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The struggle with "sensations of orientation" is so true for me and my friends in Detroit as well. Even when "old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new," the newness can be disorienting. May God bless you as you seek to re-orient yourself and your friends in the grace of Christ.