Seeing through our blind spots
I have often thought of how many things we look at without seeing. I’ve been brought back to this recently in listening to an interview with writer and photographer Teju Cole, who believes that it is very fortifying as an idea, to think about what is not evident, what is not apparent:
To look is to see only a fraction of what one is looking at. Even in the most vigilant eye, there is a blind spot. What is missing?
‘On Looking’ is a book by Alexandra Horowitz about the eleven walks that she takes around her block with different companions (one her beloved dog) as she looks for what it is that she misses, every day, right in front of her:
As it turns out, I was missing pretty much everything… My consolation is that this deficiency of mine is quite human. We see, but we do not see: we use our eyes, but our gaze is glancing, frivolously considering its object. We see the signs, but not their meanings. We are not blinded, but we have blinders.
And so naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about my blind spots and what I am missing. There is a passage in the ‘The Joy Luck Club’ by Amy Tan that stood out to me:
This is the way it is with a wound. The wound begins to close in on itself, to protect what is hurting so much. And once it is closed, you no longer see what is underneath, what started the pain.
Do we seek comfort in our blind spots so as to avoid our discomfort and pain, fearful of what we might see? But if we are doing this, are we closing off what psychologist Susan David has said is the price of admission to a meaningful life?
We have to feel in order to see. And so then I started to wonder what would we feel if we closed our eyes to see instead? There is a beautiful poem - ‘Allow’ by Danna Faulds - which has answered this question for me:
Allow, and grace will carry
You to higher ground. The only
Safety lies in letting it all in -
The wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.