I started a post the other week on the theme of violence. I’m sure I’ll come back to it, but in the meantime, I’ve come back to a recurring theme in my work/life: invisibility. Invisible means unseen. The word invisible is an adjective – and can be understood as a way of describing an intrinsic characteristic. The coat is invisible. Yet, invisibility can also be extrinsic. We create invisibility through not seeing. We create the condition of invisibility through coverings and hidings. Why am I thinking about invisibility? Because I’m thinking about what we see and don’t see in ourselves, each other and the collective creative process that is social change. I’m thinking about the importance of SEEING.
We say: “Seeing is believing.” I’ve never given much thought to this saying. But as I was typing the last sentence in the first paragraph, it popped into my head: Seeing is believing. Yes, it is, isn’t it? We have to believe or be open to believing before we can see.
By ‘see’ I’m not only thinking in the realm of the physical – being able to see something physically. After all, we also say: “Oh, I see” to show that we understand; it is like saying “Oh, I get it/you.” Particularly in this sense – this sense of recognition, understanding and connection – sight is hugely important.
How do we strengthen our sight – our ability to see?
This past week, I had experiences where it was – afterwards, of course – very clear to me that in many ways I had been blinding myself. I was choosing not to see, for example, that I had put a new friend into a box made of prejudices and assumptions interwoven with my own fears. Because my friend was in this box, I was never really seeing him in his fullness – I didn’t give him a chance to be seen or perhaps more accurately, I didn’t give myself a chance to see him. We met and I thought to myself “Oh, he’s this, this and this…” and these assumptions guided my interactions from then on. I think of it either as though I put him in a box or I created a special set of glasses that I wore around him (or even not just around him, I wore those glasses even when thinking of him). Let’s call him Tim. I created a pair of Tim glasses – and I could only see Tim through those lenses.
As I type I realize that this metaphor starts to get messy. For example, because of my Tim glasses, I would HEAR every sentence Tim uttered in a particular way. Impossible to separate seeing from hearing – all of which really are within UNDERSTANDING. But perhaps I am digressing…
As I sit here typing, I’m wondering about how many pairs of glasses I carry around with me – some specific to certain people, some more generic (though which I see all people). Maybe I go about wearing multiple pairs at the same time – or it is just that I wear one pair of glasses with these lenses that are constantly changing moment by moment – depending on what beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, presumptions are alive within me at the time.
I’m also thinking about how difficult it can be sometimes to take off a pair of glasses – accustomed as we are to wearing them. For example, a few weeks after knowing Tim, I remember thinking: “I’m not being open to seeing him in his fullness…I need to open up.” I did open up for a bit, but then closed back down again – I took off the glasses, but only for a short spell. After all, I might have created those glasses when I met him, but really the material for the Tim glasses pre-dates my meeting him, no?
What glasses am I wearing and are they really helping me to see more clearly?
What glasses are you wearing and are they really helping you to see more clearly?
What are your lenses made of – what creates the glass through which you are looking – ahh, looking glass…now I’m talking mirrors. I think I’ll leave that for another post…