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Learning How to See
Learning How to See

Learning How to See: Weekly Summary

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Learning How to See

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Summary and Practice

Sunday, February 28—Friday, March 5, 2021

One of the keys to wisdom is that we must recognize our own biases, our own addictive preoccupations, and those things to which, for some reason, we refuse to pay attention.

People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. —Brian McLaren

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world.

Jesus used imagination to punch a tiny hole in their walls of confirmation bias, and through that tiny hole, some new light could stream in and let them know of a bigger world beyond their walls. —Brian McLaren

The more we bump into the folks who are so-called “other,” the more we are stretched, the more we are pulled out of that bias and have new truths because we have tangible evidence of the beautiful, powerful creativity of our God who made all of this diversity for us to enjoy. —Jacqui Lewis

Christ renames reality correctly, according to what reality honestly is, putting aside whatever we think it is or whatever we fear it is.


Recollecting Our Days

Self-awareness is a requirement in order to see differently. Today, we offer a practice from Father Anthony de Mello (1931–1987). From the wisdom of his Jesuit spirituality, he encourages us to use our imagination in order to expand our self-awareness and to support our ability to see in a new way.

Take some time first to quieten yourself, because this exercise demands a great quietness inside you . . .

To do this exercise, you have to think of your whole day as a film. Let us suppose you are doing this exercise at night. You unwind the film of the day, going backward, one scene at a time, until you return to the first scene of the morning, your first waking moment.

For instance, what is the last thing you did before starting this exercise? You walked into this room and took your seat and composed yourself for prayer. That will be the first scene you will contemplate. What happened before that? You walked to this room. That will be your second scene. And before that? . . .

You are not to participate in these events as if they were taking place again, but to merely observe them from the outside. Look at them in a detached manner, as a neutral observer would. . . .

Begin to unroll the film, going back over each of the events of the day . . . Take your time and see each of the events in some detail . . . Take a look especially at the principal actor, yourself . . . Notice how [you] act, what [you are] thinking, how [you are] feeling . . . It is very important that while you observe these events you adopt a neutral attitude, that is, that you neither condemn nor approve of what you are observing . . . Just observe. Do not judge. Do not evaluate . . .

. . .

Keep at this exercise till you get to the first moment of the day, your first waking moment . . .

This is an extremely difficult exercise to perform successfully. It requires an intense degree of recollectedness and a great mastery of the art of concentration. This type of concentration comes only to those who are deeply at peace within themselves and have managed to get that peace to pervade their minds and their other faculties. So do not be discouraged if your first attempts meet with considerable failure. The mere attempt to unroll that film will do you a lot of good and you will probably get a good deal of profit from observing no more than one or two scenes or events. . . . The moment you realize you are distracted return to the last scene that you were contemplating before you were distracted.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Adapted from Anthony de Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (Image Books: 1984, 1978), 99–100.

Image credit: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. ca. 1953–ca. 1978, Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. Two long lines of some of the buses used to transport marchers to Washington (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Much of the work of dismantling systems of oppression involves a continued willingness to learn new ways of seeing. The March on Washington in 1963, where this image was taken, became a major tipping point in the United States’ collective story of learning how to see. May we continue the work of our ever-unfolding ability to see, understand, and act.
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