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TV Snapshots: Seeing things the way they are

House is about to unwrap the bandages from Apple’s eyes, a cornea transplant recipient who’s just had surgery to remove some tissue that was messing up the signals in her brain and affecting her vision without her knowing it, leaving her with a false perception of the world around her.

House: The world is ugly. People kill. They go hungry. . . . People are a**es.

Apple: Why are you telling me this stuff?

House: Because the world is not as ugly as you think it is. Your transplanted cornea’s fine, your eye is fine. But your brain wasn’t working right. I’m going to take the gauze off your eyes now. It’s going to be bright.

Apple (who’s been through this before): I know.

House begins unwrapping the guaze from around her head.

House (as he unwraps): The brain cells that weren’t brain cells were in the way of processing visual information correctly. After the transplant, you could see, but not see.

Apple (not understanding): I could see. I could read.

House: Yeah, but it was dull, or foggy or gray. I don’t know. What I do know is that you were not seeing what everyone else was seeing.

Apple (her voice quavering a little): And now? Things are going to be . . . beautiful?

House (finishing with the gauze): Things’ll be what they are.

He takes the pads from her eyes and she slowly opens them, blinking, and then her eyes widen. She turns slowly and looks at House in awe and joy, with tears in her eyes.

House: How do I look?

Apple: You look sad.

--from the "Not Cancer" episode of Fox's House

The above is the ending to the most recent episode of House—Fox's television series about the aforementioned savant-but-acerbic doctor who solves the most mysterious of medical cases—and it surprised, moved and enchanted me. I particularly loved how this episode played with blindness and regaining sight—true sight—and how it speaks to our own struggle with seeing the world for what it is, in all its beauty and darkness.

This particular episode follows a group of transplant patients who share the same donor and who are also dying one by one—one of them the above Apple, a young math teacher who was nearly blind before she received a cornea transplant. Earlier in the episode, Apple surprises House when she reveals she’d been an architect when she blind:
House (incredulous): You gave up architecture after you could see?

Apple (stoically): The world was ugly.

She pauses, looking at House.

Apple: You think the world would be different if your leg was fine?

House (pausing): No.

Apple: Think you’d be any different if your leg was fine? I mean, the doctors told me that my life was gonna be so much better once I could see. I would date. I would dance. But, uh, the guys I hated dancing with before I hate dancing with after. My parents were still dead. I was still alone.

House (sarcastically): You’re fun.

Apple (without missing a beat): You don’t seem all that different.

House looks at her a moment.

House: I haven’t given up.
House eventually realizes it's not the cornea that's the problem; something is wrong in Apple’s brain. So he finagles a surgery and they take out the tissue that’s blocking the signals in her brain (or at least, that’s how a very non-medical person like me understood it, heh), which was affecting how she sees things. After the surgery, House takes off her bandages and she finally sees things the way they are—and it’s an incredible moment (above).

As I watched that scene, I couldn’t help but think of Mark’s story about Jesus healing the blind man in Bethsaida. Interestingly, that healing takes place soon after a frustrating conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which they still didn’t get who he was and what he was all about; in other words, they’re not seeing right. When they come to Bethsaida, some people bring a blind man to him. Jesus takes the man by the hand and leads him out of the village, where he spits on his eyes and puts his hands on them:

Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

Once more, Jesus put his hand on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
I’ve always loved this story, how Jesus doesn’t just assume the man can see but takes the time to make sure he sees clearly—the same care he takes with us. I also like how it speaks to the healing of our own understandings and the way we see the world. Sometimes, healing takes awhile. Sometimes, we walk through our days seeing the world in a distorted way. We see more evil than good. The darkness overwhelms the light. We see people walking around like trees.

But when we see the world the way it really is—with all its sorrow, brokenness and darkness in the midst of its renovation, beauty and redemption—it is both heartbreaking and breathtaking.

The above scene in House reminds me of all that. The healing of our own vision is similar. Too often, we see, but don’t see. We don’t see things they way they really are. But when we do see rightly, there’s a sword-edged beauty to the world. It is both breathtaking and heartrending. Because in the midst of all the pain, darkness and ugliness, there is God. And that is amazing.

(Image: Fox) housectgy


Ken Brown said…
I didn't really enjoy that episode of House much, but that was an interesting exchange. Good thoughts!
Never Settle said…
House is one of my favorite shows. Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to watch it often this season.

I really enjoy the way you look beyond the surface of the books you read, movies and shows you watch and even life around you. I view it as you seeking God in unconventional ways and places. It keeps me inspired to do the same.

Thank you.
Carmen Andres said…
ken, i wasn't particularly enthralled during the episode either -- which is why the ending so enchanted me. i didn't expect it, but i really resonated with it. this series comes up with some gem scenes every now and then.

neversettle, i remember sitting in church and hearing acts 17 in a sermon about 20 years ago and being so captivated i couldn't pay attention to anything else. i'd read the passage before, but for some reason, that day it really sunk in. i loved (and still do) how paul saw and articulated truth in the literature and culture of the day. i can't remember for the life of me what the sermon was about, but something clicked in my head that i can only articulate as Paul does: we can't get away from God, he's everywhere. we just need to look.