When my kids were little, we played a game called I Spy in which we named something in the room and the other person had to guess. It was particularly fun during the holiday season with the Christmas tree stood in the living room and we’d take turns picking out ornaments and giving tiny hints about what we saw while the other person tried to find the right ornament.
Focusing on details like that is fun while you’re tucked into a living room sofa with the lights down low and a warm kid snuggled up against your side. I so well recall the feel of their soft hair as I stroked their heads. They’d cuddle against me with a finger to their lips concentrating on finding something they hoped I could not guess in the I Spy game.
We also had a collection of I Spy books illustrated that featured photo compilations of objects like two full pages of old Teddy Bears. It was just as fun playing with those books as it was picking things out in real life.
I Spy the world at large
In many respects, I often play a game of I Spy while out running and riding. Every training route has its share of familiar objects. I can always add to the game by scanning the world for birds of various kinds. Being a birder means never having to struggle for entertainment in this world. Everywhere you go, there is something to find. Go to a different part of the country and it’s an all-new I Spy game. That’s how I approach life in general.
Last night while walking the dog at twilight, I stopped for a moment to look at the eastern horizon. At that moment I cared not about the details in front of me. What caught my eye was the purplish shadow of the earth itself as the sun went down. That shadow and the horizon line express the bottom portion of a geometric phenomenon known as the azimuth: “the direction of a celestial object from the observer, expressed as the angular distance from the north or south point of the horizon to the point at which a vertical circle passing through the object intersects the horizon.”
The diagram at right better explains what an azimuth is. My main point here is that we’re all subject to a limited perspective in this world. Even math doesn’t explain it all. Sometimes I shudder at how naive I am about things in this world that others clearly understand. On some things I consider myself a reasonably smart person. On other things I recognize that I am nearly hopeless.
Playing I Spy with my children taught me that we’re all involved in a perpetual struggle to see the world in new and better ways. But if you want to feel really small, wait for that moment when the sun goes down and you can see the shadow of the earth fading off into the heavens. We’re all perched here on a small orb in the vastness of space. I Spy infinity.
In my life I’ve run and cycled the equivalent of traveling several times around the earth. Yet in many ways I’ve gone nowhere, I know] nothing and am left playing a game of I Spy in a world where innocence and ignorance are the price you pay for merely opening your eyes.
We often lose our sense of wonder as we age. It’s easy to become ambivalent. Feel like there’s nothing new under the sun. Regaining that childlike regard for the world is difficult, especially when life’s pressures crowd in from all angles.
All I’m saying here is that it pays to look around you, take stock and soak in what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Playing I Spy can keep you alive and thriving in this life.