What stands out to me is the image of a blind man leading a blind. On the one hand, this image seems very simple. Yet earlier this year I remember listening to the program Invisibilia earlier this year about a gentleman who cannot see in the conventional sense, being legally blind, but who has acquired the ability to see using a type of sonar (see http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/378577902/how-to-become-batman for this full program). Known as “the Bat-man”, he uses echolocation to travel and see his surroundings. Using a series of clicks he actually develops a picture of his surroundings and is able to traverse the area almost as well as someone who uses light to see, and in fact picks up some details that folks like me who use conventional senses to see miss. On that program, the interviewers spoke with scientists who scan the brain centers who said for individuals like this “Bat-man” the same parts of the brain that light up when I use my eyes to see the world around me light up when someone uses echolocation to see. In that episode of Invisibilia, this man’s life work of leading other people who are legally blind with his echo-location so they can learn echo-location themselves was highlighted.
To me holding together Jesus’ parable of the blind leaning the blind ending up placing both in a pit together with this example of a man that legally is declared blind yet sees through a method other than his eyes teaches me an important point: we need to be careful to not mis-use Jesus’ words to discern who is blind and who is not.
It is easy to look at another person and say “they cannot see God and God’s ways” or “they have nothing to teach me” because their life history, their choices, their disability, their sexual orientation, or their politics are different than our own. It may be the way they come to approach seeking to see the truth of the world may be different than our own. Perhaps just as this man used his mouth and ears to see rather than his eyes, someone in our life may use a different religion than our own to encounter the Divine and seek to find God’s path. We must remember not all who seem blind are, and some who claim loudly to see are lost in the world.
Our focus must not be on whether another is blind or seeing, for unless we walk a mile down their path in their shoes we cannot fully see. We must seek to increase our own sensitivity and awareness to the Sacred in our lives.
For me this involves practices like mindfulness, meditation, prayer, Scripture reading, journaling, and engaging with others. I engage with others by listening, being available to hurting people, serving in my community, being as good a husband, friend, and relative as a I can. In these ways I come to encounter the Living Christ in new ways every day in my own life, in nature, and most of all in others around me. As I do so I encounter parts of others whom I would otherwise have discounted that show Christ to me in new ways, and parts of myself long discounted that do the same. I also encounter within myself a push-back, a resistance to the way of Christ being shown to me in myself and others. This push-back, if I let it, will lead me to discount these new challenges and lessons from that of the living Christ shining into my life from these new perspectives. I can begin to set myself up as seeing and those sources of new life and direction in others and myself as blind. In doing so, I blind myself. Rather I need to learn to open myself up more deeply, so that I might be transformed and led further along the path that the living Christ shows me as Christ whispers “take up your cross and follow me”.
This is why Jesus follows this story with the encouragement to build the home of our lives on the solid foundation of his teaching of us. Ultimately what counts is not judging how well or poorly others see, but learning to increase how well we see the living Christ and are guided by Christ each day.
Your practices that open up your spiritual sight might be different, and you may use other terms than “Christ” or “prayer” to talk of this guiding presence you encounter when you touch the Sacred and the Sacred touches you. Today this example reminds me I have no right to judge you for that. But we both have the call to look forward, to further open our eyes and hears, so that whether with spiritual echo-location, spiritual eyes, or some other method we might more fully see ourselves and others in the light that makes our paths clear. Let’s do so today.