Monday, February 23, 2009

In Living Color

I had a professor at LaGrange College named Dr. David Naglee. Dr. Naglee was a renaissance man in every sense of the word. He was a concert cellist. He built grandfather clocks by hand. He wrote books and lectured at universities all over the world. He was, at one time, listed in Cambridge University's "Who's Who Among Intellectuals." He was also the biggest professional wrestling fan I've ever met. He always said he wanted to start a tag team called "BOANERGES! THE SONS OF THUNDER!" ("Boanerges" means "sons of thunder" and was the name Christ gave to James and John because of their inclination to be hot-tempered. I encouraged him to come up with another name for his tag-team as that may have been a bit above the head of the average fan of professional wrestling.) I once told him that he reminded me of a Van Gogh quote that said "The best way to know life is to love many things..." His response - "My lands! I certainly pray that doesn't include cutting one's ear off!"
I tell you all of that to tell you this - Dr. Naglee had very poor eyesight and was colorblind. He was an avid golfer but often asked his students to go play a round with him because once he hit a ball it was gone for him. When you played with him you had to keep up with your shot and his as well. I can't remember the whole story, but there was a time when his eyesight was failing and doctors told him to expect the worst. Thus began a severe bout with depression. A man who built his life on lecturing, writing and reading would, of course, be lost without his ability to see. Though he wasn't Roman-Catholic he paid a visit to the monastery in Conyers, Georgia. Apparently he sequestered himself there to pray, meditate and ask the Almighty why this was happening to him. Again, I can't remember the details but as he left the monastery in his car suddenly, for one fleeting moment, everything on the road he traveled was in color. For the first time since his teenage years he was able to see colors! He stopped by the side of the road and wept. He felt he'd received a direct message from the creator of the universe. He always said "the voice of God isn't necessarily a language...sometimes it's a picture." As far as I know, he retained his vision through the remainder of his life.
Last week while walking the streets of Charleston as well as the beaches of the Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island I felt like I was seeing the world in color for the first time in years. We walked and walked and walked...there was no aching or shortness of breath. I enjoyed the scenery instead of scouring the scenery in search of a chair or a bench. I felt very alive as if these were the first steps I'd ever taken. I know this borders on melodramatic and you probably think I'm being wayyyyyy over-the-top. But the moments are becoming more and more frequent where I'm caught off-guard as to how drastically different my life has become. There's no more going through the motions...I feel like I'm actually going somewhere and that there's purpose to all actions.
I've seen the beauty of Charleston. I've stood on the battery and watched dolphins play before. I've seen that flag flying out on Fort Sumter many times. I've stood in awe at the majesty and grace of those old homes. But this time I saw it all in color. Best part is, so did my bride. She didn't have to worry about how I was doing or how I was walking. Dr. Naglee was right - sometimes it's a picture not a voice.


Melinda Sileo said...

Beautiful and touching. This is what we've all wanted for you for so long.

Elisabeth said...

That's awesome. Scott & I went to Dialogue in the Dark yesterday & while we wouldn't recommend spending $30 on it, it definitely does make you aware of your senses & how much you rely on them - in this case, sight.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Naglee... I loved that man. I was in total awe and respect of him. He was sooo interesting and knowledgable. I remember how he played the saw for us in class one time. He told the story of playing saws with two of his children. I think "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" in three parts. He said it sounded like a cat fight. I remember him taking us on a field trip to the monestary in Conyers, and when a buch of you religion major guys went to Atlanta to see a wrestling match.
When Greek class was kicking your behinies he told you guys to, "Stop bitching, it isn't Sunday School."
I love how you drew the comparison of his seeing color.. and your eyes being opened and seeing colors.

David said...

Actually, It was "Be Still My Soul" and it sounded like a very bad catfight. Easy to remember the song as it should have been, Be Still My Saw. David S. Naglee