Discerning eyes

Recently I wrote a piece about listening ears.  This reflection picks out another one of our senses, namely, seeing.  Analogous to listening ears, we can talk about discerning eyes.  When we talk about eyes, everyone knows what we are talking about.  Our eyes are the parts of the body that give us sight.  Most of us probably think we understand the world in which we live because of our capacity to see that world.  We have named all the things in the world we see.

Although I am not blind, I assume even blind folks somehow “see” their world and have some kind of picture of the reality around them.  In college I had a friend who was colorblind, so I know he did not see the world in the same way I did.  My friendship with him provided one of the earliest instances in which I realized not everyone sees the world the same way I do.  For the first time in my life, I had to confront the possibility that our ways of seeing the world are relative.

All that means is I see the world relative to my condition.  Because I am part of the majority of people who can literally see (I am not blind) and because I can see colors (I am not colorblind), I assume that we normal people see the world as it is.  Unfortunately for those who are blind or colorblind, they do not see the world as it is; they are seeing the world from a warped perspective.

It is a small step from this perspective to the assumption that how I see the world is right.  Blind people and colorblind people don’t see the world as it is.  Therefore, they are in some sense wrong.  If I am in the majority and most of us think this way, then it becomes a “fact.”  I am wary of this kind of logic.  So I would re-frame the way to talk about seeing.

What we see is actually our perception of the world.  Physiologically, we know our eyes do not get a direct representation of what we think we “see.”  When we see something, light from that object enters our eye.  The light travels back to the retina, where those rods and cones exist, as I recall the little anatomy I learned.  In the retina the light is changed into an electrical signals that zips along the optic nerve to the brain.  It is in our brain that we formulate the “picture” of what we are “seeing.”  This happens so fast, we seem to be seeing immediately what we are looking at.

So even for those of us who think we are normal, we are fabricating our pictures of the world.  No doubt, the same thing is true for the things we “see,” but not in a literal fashion.  For example, at some point I was certain that I could see that a particular woman loved me.  What this meant obviously was very complex.  I saw her act in particular ways; I read body language.  I made assumptions and develop interpretations.  I am confident of this and could ask her and maybe she said she loved me.

That seems conclusive.  It seems conclusive until I learn that she might be deceiving me.  Her words might be lies.  Perhaps I am being duped!  Now my confidence would be shaken.  What I have been seeing merited the interpretation that she loved me, but the seeing was not the truth. Seeing is believing, but clearly we better be careful and not assume that our believing is always fact.

While all this may seem distant from anything to do with discerning eyes, it actually is a wonderful prelude.  When we add the qualifier, “discerning,” to eyes, we get a way to go deeper than mere superficial seeing.  Indeed, there may be more than meets the eye.  Discernment is a way to get to this deeper aspect.  And this is especially true in the realm of spirituality.

Discerning eyes are always called for in our spiritual journey when we are not sure where we should go or what we should do.  If we could write discernment into the way we see things, I would say discernment is a process that allows us to follow the light that goes into an eye back to the retina.  Discernment is “there” to observe that light turn into an electrical signal and take off on the optic nerve to the brain.  Discernment is able to go all the way.

In this analogy discernment is the process of connecting with the Spirit of God.  This would be like seeing something with our eyes.  We stayed connected with the Spirit as it moves us into the heart of the Divinity Itself.  There discernment enables us to see clearly the truth of what God wants us to be or to do.

And the good news for us is God is never a liar or deceiver.  What God says and shows us is always true and always trustworthy.  The discerning eye cannot be duped in the way someone else may dupe me.  Our bodies don’t come equipped with this discerning eye.  We have to develop it in the spiritual journey.  I think it is important to do.

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