Success, and Short-Sighted Visionaries

Whenever I’m driving to an unfamiliar location, I don’t like to wander my way there, and end up programming the location into my phone for directions so that I don’t get lost.  I don’t like entering a driving situation unguided, as it tends to waste time and effort.  The same can be said for the role that vision plays in life and how it helps us to reach a plannable future.  Vision is the bridge between the present and the future, a guiding mechanism that shows us the way and keeps us on the path towards our goals.  A good vision dictates our every word and action.  To develop vision, one must take an honest look at what the present situation holds, see where he or she would like to be in the future, and then make plans to work towards that future.  Having recently met television producer Norman Lear, the man responsible for creating such landmark television shows as All in the Family, Maude, and The Jeffersons, I listened to him reflect on his life and his vision for changing the world through television comedy.  He spoke about the endless hours he poured into his television families, developing challenging characters who made Americans think, reflect, and process complex ideas.  He spoke of how he saw the country struggling with racism, and then envisioned Archie Bunker as someone whose satiric ignorance made viewers take a harder look at their own core racial values.  He talked about how the country possessed tremendous gender inequality, and how he responded with the upstanding Maude as a champion for sexual impartiality.  And he discussed America’s view of the American Dream, how it was only achievable by whites, and how the Jefferson family showed an empowered black family achieving the American Dream.  His vision helped change the television landscape and the way we think, with his shows as the vehicle for that vision.  The author of Habakkuk 2.2-3 writes about how powerful a clear vision can be: “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.’”  Vision sets forth a clear plan for the upcoming years, one that guides us through struggle and uncertainty.  However, what we often fail to realize, as Lear failed to realize in his own life, is that vision should not be regulated to our occupations, institutions, and country, but should be applied to all areas of our lives, especially our relationships.  Despite being successful, Lear remorsefully confessed to us that he spent so much time working with his visionary television families that he neglected his own family at home.  As such, his wife Frances, a woman with whom he fell deeply in love when they met, silently struggled with manic depression, attempted suicide, and finally divorced him.  Because he applied vision only to his work, his family suffered.  Many of us have desires for growth in our job performance, the looks of our house, or sometimes even our own personal improvement, but we often forget that our relationships need vision, too.  Most of us take our relationships and marriages for granted, viewing them as a place where we can retreat and unwind, be ourselves, and avoid work.  We forget that even our relationships require work, and fewer of us think about where we would like our relationships to be in five, ten, or twenty years.  If we really care for others, we must assess the now and plan for the future, or we risk relationship stagnation and atrophy.  And it’s never too late to develop vision. At age 93, Lear still works on his visions with his relationships.  Maybe now’s the time to develop a vision for your relationships, too.  Amen.

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