Seeing Clearly

I got my first pair of glasses about a week ago. So far, it’s not a love affair.

Perhaps it’s the anti-glare coating, but I’m always aware that there’s a layer between me and what I’m seeing. This is so often the case when I relate to other people as well. I automatically and instantaneously put the lens of my idea of who they are between us. This prescription does not improve my sight.

We’re invited into a very different gaze when viewing an icon. In that practice, as I understand it, the viewer looks at the icon until she somehow passes through it, until she is no longer looking solely at the painting but also at the spiritual reality that it represents, or perhaps more exactly embodies.

I looked up icon, and its root means “likeness, image.” So we are icons of God, made in God’s image and likeness. The reality that we embody is God. Which means this is true for our fellow human beings as well, even the ones we consider difficult.

My glasses are mild progressives, and I keep trying to figure out which part of the lens to look through for what distance. My boss told me that my eyes will find the right place automatically if I stop thinking about it.

Meditating on an icon is not a matter of thought. It must be a matter of connection, of recognition—God within us recognizing the divine that is present in every creation, whether God’s Creation or our works of art, our feats of engineering, our scientific discoveries.

If we could look at ourselves and each other the way we look at a sculpture that blows us away or a flowering jacaranda tree whose purple flowers stop us in our tracks, if we could pause and let that whatever-it-is within each of us connect, we might be astonished at our own beauty.

5 thoughts on “Seeing Clearly

  1. I’ve spent the last 8 weeks looking at (telling tales to and with) pre-schoolers, Kindergarteners, and first graders…. talk about seeing a LOT! They were truly wondrous. NOT always easy. Many strikingly different from my brothers and me at that age (1950’s, why wouldn’t they be different?!). It was a lesson in observing, taking in, savoring, delighting, marveling. I got my first pair of glasses in Kindergarten and felt like Perry Mason’s secretary – very efficient and clearly smart! Thanks for this invite to see each other as images of the divine. So true that we are.

  2. Thomas Merton has written something about how we would fall on our knees before the sacredness of one another if we could see the reality of who is in front of us.
    I don’t know what all accounts for the complex barriers that obscure us from one another. I’m sometimes made more keenly aware of these barriers when I consider the contrast between how I see animals and people. Entirely different experiences.

    • Good point, I can’t imagine being as patient with a human who attacks me as often as Tux does, though at the same time it’s not unreasonable to have different expectations of different species. Maybe the difference is in how personally we take things.

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