What good are eyes if they only see what they are told to see? I have always seen what I’ve been shown, with or without the light necessary to see as I should see. What good are they, these eyes that look at the world, to the world, for what? We look for hope, but hope is not looking, not seeing.
I have, though, looked and looked again, not in that way we mean when we admonish someone for not looking, or to look–how should I say it–more carefully, more acutely, with sharper focus. How many are setting their sights to see in soft focus? Yes, a special kind of received seeing–to have seen what I was supposed to see, this supposed to not the necessities of wisdom, but the suppositories of a state administration.
What I was taught to see was what I would see. I know how easily this is performed. I have had trouble seeing what many around me have denied being able to see, or have denied any presence to be seen at all. The inferences were clear, remain so at present. Seeing what is supposed to be seen and not seeing what is not there to be seen are both ends of sanity when sanity is primarily and lastly defined socially. Most immigrants anywhere suffer a kind of insanity until they recover by a slow process of enculturation. Sight had a lot to do with a focus manipulated from outside the Self; we see only what we are supposed to see. There’s an interesting anecdote on this social seeing presented by Primo Levi in his The Drowned and the Saved.
To see is to understand; in this sense, the opinions we hold coalesce in a kind of sight. To see in this sense may or may not be dependent on looking. Seek and you shall find, look and you shall see? What mean these when seeing is something the blind can be taught to do. I’m not talking about the kind of seeing we must do by closing our eyes. Kubrick asserted right before he died, Eyes Wide Shut, for the kind of looking without seeing, the kind of seeing that is all about not looking but saying yes or no to what has been told to you, another kind of indoctrination.
As referred to above, Primo Levi talked about this similar kind of seeing done by the Germans that lead them into the Nazis horrors. A typical German crosses a street where traffic is not allowed. He gets hit by a car and thrown to the ground. He asks what happened to him when he comes to. Someone tells him that he had just been hit by a car. He then responds by saying that it is impossible for him to have ben hit by a car because traffic is not allowed on the street he was hit by a car on. Our typical German that voted for the Nazis saw something other than what there was to be seen, understood his experience differently from how it happened. What then is sight? What then is seeing when to see is to understand in a way contrary to fact, even experience? It is interesting we use sight and seeing for understanding and for wisdom–so little of either present in our pedagogy.
To look, to watch, to gaze, to see, all in themselves with the eyes. I understand only comes when one stands under the something to be understood, yes, to feel the pressure of the thing of the person, of the idea, of the anything whatever it is. There is a holding done by standing under, a holding up. The eyes can also hold, apprehend, understand. But what to see, how to see it, when and where, but once again, what is crucial when it is a thing. We must remember that love is a thing, liberty is a thing, democracy is a thing, literacy isa thing.
There has always been a kind of seeing instructed, a way to see blind, so to speak. Do you see what I’m saying? The words we use are themselves in internal conflict; eyes that see the world, eyes that see at all, eyes that see nothing, nothing to be seen, no things familiar about me. We could ask and ask again as we do over and over turning about our words doing somersaults . . . we make acrobats out of our words. I don’t see the snow that the Inuit see, or I do not see as many different kinds of snow as they do. I don’t see the sky and ocean that a fisherman sees. I do not see the world of phenomena as any other person who lives now or has ever lived or who will ever live. In the simple facts of physiology, my vision is unique in the history of the universe because no one can have my eyes in my body in the points of time and space that I occupy. Lear must ask the same kind of question on the Heath–what good are my eyes. He did ask the same question, about eyes, what good are they? The responses from his daughters, what were they worth, the fool speaks truth to him and he plummets deeper into his madness, a rage against the storms that blow. He seems to ask again and again, how the play’s the thing. It does capture his conscience, does it not. Conscience is a kind of super seeing, Lear comes to wisdom only after folly. Most of us are the same. How am I not to see me in Lear, in Edmund–no greater nihilist in all of literature, but then literature is truth, helps us on our way to the Truth. The literary being another way of seeing. Literature has its own epistemological veracity, validity, and thus becomes its own way of apprehending the world, thus seeing the world. Imagine the kind of seeing you would have to have to see beyond your culturally determined limits of knowledge and what is knowable. yet every human sight has the ability to do this.
What eyes do I need to see the transcendental? The evidence of things unseen are all around us. The facts invisible are everywhere, are they not? I speak with my eyes, my eyes have a way with words, my words themselves have eyes to see their way. But if the Truth does not need physical eyes, the physiological fact of sight to be seen, then what good are the eyes we cling to out of vanity and misguided hope? Lear was a fool. I am a fool. I’m always opening my eyes on the world to look. I look and look and I do not find. He was a fool from the start. I am no different in how I start everything I do. Oedipus make physical what was before hand his another kind of dis-seeing, a kind if mis-taking, another kind of blindness.
Lear’s hubris leads to a kind of blindness to every truth he needs to understand; there is still a way to see in real blindness, Tiresias shows us as much. The kind of blind seeing that keeps us from seeing what needs to be seen, what we should have focus for, point and shoot eyes no more. My terminal blindness leads to my perpetual hubris, my hubris feeding blindness. I wish I had other eyes to see. I do remember Tiresias is blind but he sees; all seers see when we do not, where we do not, what we do not. Odysseus knows this when he travels to Hades to have a meeting with the most famous of blind sages from antiquity. Arjuna knows before the Battle of Righteousness how all has been clouded by desire, how the soul is blinded by our emotions . . . what more could be said to help you on your way to understanding?