Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blindsight

Last month, the New York Times published Blind, Yet Seeing: The Brain’s Subconscious Visual Sense, an article about a rudimentary experiment that yielded the most significant evidence yet that there are ways other than our visual centers of our brain in which we process information our eyes take in. In the experiment, a man whose visual processing centers of the brain were destroyed by strokes (but his eyes remain unaffected) was asked to walk through an obstacle course without his cane. Much to his own surprise, he deftly negotiated every object! And, say the scientists, he “registers not only solid objects but also strong social signals,” particularly those expressed on the face.

Scientists hypothesize that this is something we all do, that our brains process the data our eyes register in much more complex ways than just through the visual processing centers of our brains. I find it utterly fascinating what our brains are capable of—the complexity, design and potential of the brain leaves me in awe. But as I read this story, I couldn’t help but think of it as an image of some of my experiences in walking with God—especially the idea of faith in the unseen.

We often talk about the world as having both a physical and spiritual realm, and we often divide them into two realities in order to explore and understand them. But in truth, they are really inexorably intertwined. Each time we take a breath, we breathe in both realities. This is one of the reasons I loved Spiderwick Chronicles, where the kids discover a lens that enables them to see the creatures that exist around them; the creatures exist in the same space as they do, but go unseen. I find that a wonderful imagine to help us understand how the spiritual realm exists, intertwines with and encompasses the significantly smaller portion of reality that we generally accept.

In some ways, we are like the blind man in that NY Times article. Once we all could see clearly and magnificently. But when we tore ourselves away from God, when our hearts were wounded and broken, we lost our ability to see. Now, we are used to processing the world by what we see, feel, touch and taste, but something tells us there are other aspects to the world that we may not see with our eyes but can detect in other ways.

Interestingly, the man in the experiment had to be convinced to do the experiment, because he didn’t think he could do it—especially without his cane:
“The more educated people are,” Dr. de Gelder said, “in my experience, the less likely they are to believe they have these resources that they are not aware of to avoid obstacles. And this was a very educated person.”
It wasn’t until he gave up his cane that this man discovered that he could see in ways he didn’t know. In my experience, it is the same in walking with God. Often it is not until we open up to the idea that he is who says and can what he says that we truly begin to experience and realize the truth and reality of his existence both in the world and within us. Like Paul says, those who trust what God’s Spirit is doing in them discover that his Spirit lives within in them. Through that Spirit, we begin to glimpse and comprehend the larger world that exists around us—and that the Creator and Sustainer of that world is good.

And once we’ve made it through one obstacle, our assurance grows. James and Paul both affirm how suffering and hard times ultimately grow hope—not an “I-wish” kind of hope but a hope that grows out certainty, out of an assurance that God is who he says and will do what he says. It’s an anticipation—a “what’s next, Papa,” as Paul puts it. It is faith in the unseen.

It’s not always an easy journey, but it is worth it.

(Image: mine)

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