Sunday, March 01, 2009

I’m a visual learner—spoken words slip off my mind while written words have greater chance of sinking in—but I didn’t realize just how much I favor my eyes over my ears until I had a long bout of viral pinkeye. I thought the swollen, itchy, oozy stage was the worst part, until my vision became clouded. For days it has been as though I’m looking at life through a foggy windshield. Now that I can barely read or write, now that it’s tiresome to observe the world around me or watch anything on a screen, I realize that these make up the vast majority of my daily activities.

Felix Ortiz says that younger generations “listen with their eyes and think with their hearts.” As I come to grip with my own visual preference, I’ve become aware that my eyes give me more autonomy than my ears. A friend of ours is doing a project called “a month of listening” in which he interviews a different person each day of the month. As I’ve listened to the interviews. I’ve realized that when we really listen to someone, we relinquish control and let them take us where they want to go. I can look at what I want from the perspective I chose, whereas I often don’t have a choice about what comes in through my ears, whether it’s elevator, the traffic, and the downstairs neighbor boy who call out insistently “Abuela, Abuela, Abuela.”

Eyes and ears are complementary but not interchangeable. Linguistically and semantically, seeing is connected with understanding; hearing with obedience. In the Bible we see that a vision of God is not an end in itself but serves to prepare someone for what God has to say to them, for example, Isaiah 6 relates how Isaiah didn’t only see God, but heard Him ask, Whom shall I send? to which Isaiah responded, Here I am. Send me and Saul’s vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus lead him to ask, What shall I do, Lord? to which Jesus replied, Get up…and go…you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.

I hope this exercise in weak vision helps strengthen my ability to hear and maybe even obeying.
(Click here for Dietrich Bonhoeffer's thoughts on Listening)

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