The Narrow Light

When I was twenty I bought my first car: a 1972 Saab. No sooner did I begin driving it then I noticed Saabs everywhere. How strange. Perhaps there had been a spike in their popularity. I pointed this anomaly out to my father. “This happens every time you buy a new kind of car,” he said. “You just never noticed them before.”

At the time, I disliked his blunt dismissal. I thought I was on to something. I have since decided he was absolutely right. But I have also decided that I was right. I was on to something, I just didn’t understand what.

There are a lot of cars in a busy city: there are cars waiting in driveways, cruising on the freeway, and jammed into parking garages. You pass them and they pass you and you can hardly stop to consider every one. But what if you began looking for a certain type of car? Now you would actually begin seeing a car, whereas before you were actively looking those cars were passing by unseen.

I heard life described once as a vast warehouse filled with everything imaginable – everything you could ever want, and everything you could ever not want. The only problem is the lights in this warehouse have been turned off. The only illumination we have is the narrow flashlight beam of our attention. We can only see where it is shining. In this way we are both blind and seeing at the same time.

This is why I was justified in my excitement about the proliferation of Saabs in Providence, RI. I had made a great discovery. It turned out I was surrounded by what I was looking for as soon as I started looking for it.

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