Most of the time, people use the expression ‘deer in the headlights’ to indicate someone being completely dumbfounded, confused, stuck. But have you ever stopped and thought about why deer get caught in that state? Why don’t the deer leap away from the oncoming vehicle? I think sometimes we even laugh about it. What kind of creature is dumb enough to be so easily incapacitated to a point of being unable to save their own life?
Well, tonight I was walking along the road near my house (don’t worry, there was a sidewalk, and I was never in any danger) and I began to understand what it must be like to be a deer frozen in front of an oncoming car. In the utter darkness, your eyes adjust, and you can see your surroundings just fine. I could tell where the sidewalk was, where my feet were, whether or not there were bushes or fences beside me. But as soon as a car approached, the headlights would flood my sight. For a full ten seconds, I could not see anything but bright yellow spots surrounded by complete blackness. No matter where I looked–even straight down at my feet–all I could see was black or bright. Talk about tunnel vision. I had to trust that I remembered where the sidewalk was and that I wasn’t going to fall off if I kept taking steps forward.
It was pretty disorienting, and I could see how easily this unique blindness could feel like the whole world had suddenly fallen away. If you can’t see anything outside of the bright light, how do you know there’s anywhere to jump? Surrounded by nothingness, it seems like you have no choice but to stay where you are, stay overwhelmed by the last thing that you know for sure exists–that light.
I think we’re all deer in the headlights sometimes. We get so overwhelmed by something that we literally can’t even see anything outside of it. Someone might tell us to leap out of the way. We might have an inkling that the sidewalk is still beneath our feet. But sometimes those little hints aren’t enough to convince us to move. Sometimes we find the beauty in the light and can’t let it go, even if we know it might kill us.