#seeandbeknown I have found that every time I have moved, I become more ill than usual. I learned quickly that each new place harbored new bugs, and the first year is one of accepting new illnesses while my body’s immune system learns how to fight them.
When I finally discovered some of my physical pain was due to autoimmune disease, I began a life-long journey to finding a balance to supporting my immune system. Autoimmune disease is basically an internal overreaction. Certain sectors of the immune system no longer focus on disease but attack healthy cells. So, many “normal” modes of targeting a virus can trigger a heightened attack on my joints and nerves. It requires listening to my body, noticing how it responds to certain supplements and foods, exercises and activities. It is a mindfulness practice that, for me, holds some urgency.
It seems as if we do a similar thing to ourselves psychically. That is, maybe I am overreacting to an internal judgment about my inadequacy and undermine – attack – the healthy strengths I do possess, and render myself socially or professionally infirm. Also, perhaps we do this as a society by passing judgment without thought, without real insight, and attack the whole of another’s position. In doing so, we debilitate constructive civil conversation.
The German-Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, writes about an “inner dialogue, that happens before we speak and act with others. “What she called ‘the banality of evil’ was the inability to hear another voice, the inability to have a dialogue either with oneself or the world, the moral world.”
She also elaborates on a concept she coined, “organized loneliness.” And here we move from yesterday’s practice of hearing to today’s practice of seeing. It is this experience of living in a society in which individuals are unseen and disconnected, of feeling superfluous in the world. It is certainly something that I wrestle with as I dive into year 50. And it seems to be an overarching universal experience in our globalizing world—more connected and more isolated. But just as I cannot really see a truth about my capabilities until another person observes it, sees me as I am, so as a society we cannot see our system for what it is until we can understand it from another cultural perspective.
Of course, that is certainly an oversimplified observation. Still, though I feel like I cannot really change a political system, I can be a part of changing myself in the context of culture. One way is to open my eyes to see another person, another culture, another belief system. And when my eyes are open, they remain open for another to return that gaze. It is vulnerable. It is frightening. It is thrilling. How beautiful it is when two people extend trust and really look at one another. I am changed, and just maybe, we can change the world.
So, let us begin today with really seeing. I like this practice because it reminds me of the childhood game of eye-spy.
Begin by choosing a color. Let us say blue. Look and see 5 different things that are blue. Notice the variation on blue – are they different hues, shiny or dark?
Next look to see 4 objects that move. Name them. Notice how they move (does it fly, float, move with the wind, roll).
Again, let us choose types of trees. Find 3 different trees. What distinguishes them? What are the shapes of the leaves? Are they changing color yet? Notice the variations in color and visual texture. If you must snap a picture for instagram, go ahead. Just edit after your done!
Now look for 2 people you didn’t notice a moment ago. Do you know them? If not, are they ones you would feel comfortable getting to know? Consider why.
Finally, find 1 object that is less than an inch.
How do I need to change my perspectival lens so I can really see someone today?