July 17 , 2018 /


“Sometimes we have blinders on. I know I have been guilty of this. What is before my eyes I haven’t always had the clarity to see. It’s amazing how experience often gives us the gift of wisdom and clarity.”   Melanie Korach, a teacher in Canada.

Conversations often have a way of waking us up, especially early on a Monday morning in the middle of summer. The quote above ignited a stream of thoughts about this marvelous sense and gift of sight, how we often take it for granted as part of our everyday lives.  This was brought closer to home recently by a friend who started gradually losing his sight a few years ago and now is totally blind. He has shared how frustrated he feels to be so dependent on other people and not to be able to enjoy the pleasure of reading, seeing the beauty that he used to enjoy in his mountain setting, seeing the faces of friends and family and living in a world of darkness. When I talk with him on the phone, we visit some shared memories, have a few laughs and then I get around to asking him what he’s listening to in the way of music and audible books.   Do you remember this question?  If you had to lose either sight or hearing, which would you give up?  Most people, with several exceptions, said they would rather give up hearing than seeing.

What we see gives us information that we can then process and interpret to provide meaning.  And here’s the interesting part.  Two people seeing the same thing often have different perceptions of what they see.  Much of our perception is shaped by our culture, by our beliefs and values as well as our experience or the lack thereof.  Think of what we see when we see someone who dresses far differently from the way we dress. It could be a matter of economics or weather, it could be a preference for a certain style or it might be determined by a belief system different from ours.  What are we to make of that?

The classic story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen is a good illustration about the difference between what people have been told they are seeing and what is clearly not the case for an unassuming child who points out that the adults have been duped.  Children see things as they are based on the child’s experience which has not yet been overly conditioned by his culture nor the adults who might want to persuade the child to believe as they do.

When Melanie said that she hasn’t always had the clarity to see what is before her eyes, I wondered how often many of us are wearing blinders either because we don’t want to see something as it is or because there is an obstacle that prevents us from seeing or from seeing clearly.  Rain and clouds, pain and bad feelings in the following song are symbols for many things that keep us from seeing clearly, even to the point of saying, “I see what you mean.”   Seeing the meaning goes beyond visual acuity to a more penetrating vision and a deeper understanding beyond what we see with our eyes.

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.”

Here’s a very short story about achieving clarity.  A young boy saw a man setting traps for birds.  He went to his grandmother, as grandmothers often see things clearly because of experience, and said, “Grandmother, I am very upset.  I saw a man setting traps for some birds.”

Grandmother: “So what did you do?”   Grandson: “I prayed that the birds would not get caught.”

Grandmother:  And if they did?”  Grandson: “If I saw that they were caught, I would let them out.”

Grandmother: “And if they got caught again?”  Grandson: “I would pray that the traps would not work.”

Grandmother: “What if the traps worked, then what? Grandson: “I would go out and kick the traps to pieces.”

There are times when we are moved to act because of what we see and we may either see a need or we may be in conflict with the way things are.  Seeing clearly may go beyond believing to acting in a way that makes a change for the better. What have you seen lately that has moved you to act?  Is your experience providing you with the gift of wisdom and clarity?  If not, why not?  If so, celebrate and share the gift.



Comments (4)

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on “sight”, Gary. To have it, and then lose it, is perhaps much ‘worse’ than to not have it in the first place. I recently ran across an app called “Be My Eyes” – it allows people with the power of sight to help people without sight accomplish everyday tasks – a wonderful use of “collective sight”, if you will. Namaste – Kumud

    1. Thanks! Being the eyes for someone else would be an enormous challenge unless we have some understanding of what that person wants to see, how he or she looks at things, some idea of their perspective, and how we might describe what we’re seeing in order to communicate meaning at a deeper level. I would not want my filter to exclude anything important to the other person. That said, I’m sure there are many ways for a sighted person to be helpful to someone who cannot see, especially with everyday living.

  2. Appreciate your link between seeing and action. So often we look past people and our small gesture of seeing could be life changing. I went to University in an urban environment and there were homeless people near and on campus. I don’t remember who told me but their advice stuck with me: Always look at homeless people because they’re people. Many suffer from mental illness and when hundreds of people a day walk past and don’t look a them, they begin to believe that they can no longer be seen. I don’t always give money when I walk past but try to remember that seeing someone’s humanity is important too.


    1. Thanks for such a clear illustration. You exemplify that quote by Max Planck, “When you change the way we look at things, the things we’re looking at change.” All we need to do is substitute “people” for “things” and you will sense the difference between looking and seeing. For an additional insight sometime, stop and meet the homeless person, ask for a name because a name has further meaning and identity.

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