The essence of spiritual life is often presented as a matter of seeing. The root problem is blindness. We have no “eye of the heart” and therefore we cannot see spiritually. It’s not just that we cannot “see” spiritual truths—that the external world is passing away, that only love endures; that the last shall be first, and so on—we can’t even see the plain old ordinary material things right in front of us. That’s why Jesus says, “consider the lily,” because he knows that despite laying eyes on it we haven’t actually seen it. The Eastern spiritual master tells his disciple that when she finally sees a tree—or a sparrow or a blade of grass—she will be enlightened. Of course you have seen a million trees, a thousand sparrows, blades of grass by the billion, but the master knows: you actually haven’t.
Enlightenment itself is a visual metaphor. As Hank Williams sang it,
I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night.
Someone sent me a video this morning that made me wonder, What about hearing? Yes, it’s true that Jesus heals the deaf. Yes, he says over and again, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” But no one sings,
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was deaf but now I hear.
But what if we could listen to the truth that lies in all things? What if we could hear reality?
Here’s the video my friend sent me. It’s a little ham-fisted at the end, but don’t let that detract from the subtlety of what comes before.