Sunday, September 5, 2010

Knowing What We See

September 5, 2010
Dear Friends,

I was meeting a friend for lunch and arrived early. While waiting I overheard two women sitting near me talking with animation and an easily audible volume. One was recounting an event that she had recently experienced.

"I wouldn't have believed it unless I had seen it with my own eyes," she concluded emphatically.

Being incurably curious about people, I considered going over to the woman and asking her if she believed that her eyes were in every instance a reliable guide to truth--it appeared to me she had embraced a highly questionable epistomology without thinking the matter through. On second thought, being even more highly interested in keeping the public peace (particularly since at that moment I was part of this specific public), I remained at the table where the hostess had seated me, and sensibly minded my own business.

While waiting, however, I did continue to wonder if it had ever occurred to that woman to question what she saw, or to wonder if the meaning she had assigned to what she thought she had seen was truth. At this point, my friend arrived and my attention turned to the joy of time and conversation with her, and the pleasure of the fine food we were served.

Late afternoon when I had finished with clients, however, the issue returned in an interesting and surprisingly beautiful form.

There is a bank of three large windows at the west end of my living room. The window coverings include sheers that cast a rusty red glow when the afternoon sun comes through them. The sofa in front of the windows is a comfortable sort, and I lay down for a brief rest and the joy of watching the changing shadows in the angles of the walls and ceiling as the light changed and night began to move in.

The walls in this room have been recently painted what is to me a lovely shade of gold. To my fascinated eyes, however, the walls I now saw had become a rich salmon-tinted rose. A portion of the ceiling that had appeared its proper Aztec White when I left for lunch, was now touched by a pied and dappled patch of red and green that reached from the dining room arch to the kitchen door.

Remembering the woman's comment, I said to myself with a smile, "The paint on my walls has changed! I have seen it with my own eyes so I am sure I can believe it."

I did see an beautiful, luminous rose covering on my living room walls. The ceiling was patterned with moving patches of red and green. I saw this--I am sure that I did. I am less sure, however, that what I saw means that the paint changed.

There is the matter of those sheers to be taken into account. And there is also the Tiffany lamp through which the afternoon sunlight reached obliquely for that ceiling space.

Change comes. When change comes, we do not automatically understand the change we see. If seeing becomes believing without pause for question, we can find ourselves at odds with reality, and adrift from truth. Jesus did not seem to think that the seeing and hearing that matter are automatic or easy. He reminded his followers that those who had eyes needed to choose to see, and those with ears needed to choose to hear. One of the purposes for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus added comfortingly, was to make this seeing and hearing possible.

If you are interested in thinking about change, and how change occurs in the process of spiritual development, join our class at First Presbyterian Church, Golden, CO, beginning September 12 at 10:30. Call 303.279.3968 for further information.

See you next week.



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