The essence of spirituality is seeing. The beginning assumption is: human beings are blind (read that dramatic story in John 9 of Jesus’ healing the man born blind!). We fail to see what’s right in front of us, which is why we keep making such deadly choices. It makes sense if you think, “Well of course she’s falling into every sad little ditch. She’s blind.”
Despite the popular notion, true spirituality does not reveal to you some esoteric vision of things heavenly. It simply opens your eyes to see the plain old reality under your nose. It’s just that—as all the masters keep telling us—when you actually look into “plain old reality” it shines like gold.
I am always fascinated by this strange, universal blindness. How is it possible that we can be staring right at it . . . and miss the shining gold?
I read this week about an experiment conducted by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons—detailed in their book, The Invisible Gorilla. They created a short film of two teams passing basketballs, one team wearing white shirts, the other wearing black. They ask people to watch the film, and instruct them to count the number of passes made by the white team, ignoring the black players. Doing this requires intense concentration. Halfway through the video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit appears, crosses the court, thumps her chest, and moves on. The gorilla is in view for nine seconds.
Thousands of people have watched the short video, and about half of them do not notice anything unusual. Chabris and Simons note that when these people are told about the gorilla, they insist it was not there. They cannot imagine missing an event that striking. Not only are we blind, we are adamant that we are not blind! Blind to our own blindness.
The reason for this gorilla-blindness is of course the intense focus on counting—only the white team’s passes. When we are so acutely trained on one thing we become effectively blind to other events, even something so wild as nine seconds of a chest-thumping gorilla.
Contemporary life has us similarly riveted: we are instructed to count only calories or dollars or SAT scores, only dress size or square footage or “hits.” To win at this game of life we know exactly what to keep our eye on, and that monomania blinds.
Think of it: what gorilla is walking through your family room, and no one can see it? What gorilla is thumping its chest in your bedroom? in the boardroom? Nine seconds. You can’t see it.