It’s a law of nature: sunglasses belong to the universe
Every pair of shades you lose will end up in the hands of someone who needs them more than you do
I want to explain why it’s important to always have good sunglasses.
This week I wandered into a small church on a Tuscan hillside. I am not at all religious but I like looking around churches when I encounter them, and if it’s the kind of church that has candles I usually light one and think about one or two people who need thinking about. I’m quite sure this does nothing for them but it does something for me, and that’s really the point of churches.
It was a bright hot summer day outside and it took time for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, and then I saw, on the table with the candles, a pair of sunglasses.
Well now, what do you think I did with those sunglasses? I did what every responsible citizen of the world should do: when I left the church, I put them on and walked home enjoying the polarising features and the cool tints and hues of a world de-glared. Those sunglasses are my sunglasses now.
Do you think I should have done something different with the sunglasses? Should I have left them where I found them? Taken them to the priest? If that’s what you think then you’re wrong – wrong, I say! You could not be more wrong! That would have been a selfish and thoughtless action, and I’ll tell you why.
Many’s the time over the years that I’ve lost cellphones, car keys, wallets and bags, and many’s the time I’ve found them too. Overwhelmingly, the items that I lose come back to me because people find them and either track me down or leave them in a clearly visible place so that I can see them easily on my return. And I do the same when I find lost items: I have called numbers on found phones and I’ve driven across town to drop off wallets because that is how a civilised world is supposed to work: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and as far as possible that which is lost must be restored. But it’s important to know the difference between that which should be restored, and that which should join the great circle of life, this vast spinning wheel kept greased by our loving and selfless contributions. Wallets and phones must be restored; sunglasses belong to the universe.
No one should expect their sunglasses to come back – once separated from you, like energy itself, they join the great communal stock of sunglasses, the pool from which we all draw. This surely is an indisputable law of nature: every pair of shades you lose will end up in the hands of someone who needs them more than you do.
If you’re wearing a pair of sunglasses and encounter another pair of sunglasses, you don’t pocket the spare pair unless you are some kind of monster. You don’t compare those you have with those you’ve found, and swap the worse for the better. No, you walk on by and leave them for the next poor wayfarer whose need outweighs their means.
Once you become aware of this invisible law of sunglasses redistribution, you start to notice how the swings balance the roundabouts. Once in Borneo I walked with some new friends to swim in a cool shady jungle pool. Interesting fact about jungle pools: when you look at one you can’t see with the naked eye whether or not it contains leeches. It’s only when you’re lolling and sighing like a happy elephant and look down through the clear green water at those weird black shapes attached to your pale pasty flesh that you can really see them clearly.
We set out back through the jungle but I was dwelling moodily on that scene in Stand By Me when the husky kid finds the last leech hiding down the front of his Y-fronts, so it was only after an hour that I realised I had left my sunglasses behind on a flat rock beside the leechy water.
“We can go back,” said one of my new friends in that tone of voice that people use when they’re trying to pretend – but not too hard – that they really don’t mind going back, but I shook my head and plodded on, resigning myself to another week in the wilds with my eyes all screwed up against the glare and fretting about crows’ feet, unable to spot the orangutans in the trees when they’re backlit against the bright white sky.
Five minutes further along there was a low overhanging branch and everyone ducked below it without breaking stride, but to me every low overhanging branch in a jungle contains at least one bright venomous snake lying in wait for me to pass, so I paused to inspect it and there, wedged into the crook made by a smaller branch, was a pair of sunglasses.
Those sunglasses weren’t quite as good as the sunglasses I’d lost, but oh my, they were a thousand times more valuable. I took them up with a feeling of being chosen by destiny, of having been headhunted by the universe to receive its beneficence. Oh, surely these off-brand sunglasses in a style that almost suits me are a sign that my life is not a waste and I am being anointed to perform mighty deeds!
I don’t know who found the sunglasses I left on the rock beside the water but I hope they had the same sense of being for once singled out by life to receive something good, and I hope that in the years since then they’ve given back many more pairs that have sent that feeling out into the world like the ripples from a smooth pebble dropped in a cool although preferably unleechy jungle pool.
The day before I found the sunglasses in the little church I had lost my previous pair somewhere, and they were a good pair, as expensive as I could easily afford, because whenever someone finds the sunglasses I lose, I want them to feel extra special.