I've had to put the blog down for a while recently, as I sorted out my direction for the coming academic year. It has been a tough time for various reasons. As we quite naturally do, I have remained anchored through seeking both community and wisdom - provided by colleagues, friends, family and my local Quaker meeting.
It is important during times where events, and people, appear to be conspiring against us, that we honestly reflect on our perception of things - and try to ensure we don't make matters worse by how we interpret and in turn react.
I have dipped into various books over the past month or so which I could mention - but more recently I have found myself returning frequently to John O'Donohue's Anam Cara (which is Irish Gaelic for 'Soul Friend') and particularly so the following passage:
"Styles of Vision:
To the fearful eye, all is threatening. When you look towards the world in a fearful way, all you see and concentrate on are things that can damage and threaten you. The fearful eye is always besieged by threat.
To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed. Greed is one of the powerful forces in the modern Western world. It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have, because they are always haunted by that which they do not yet possess. This can refer to land, books, companies, ideas, money or art. The motor and agenda of greed is always the same. Joy is possession, but sadly possession is ever restless; it has an inner insatiable hunger. Greed is poignant because it is always haunted and emptied by future possibility; it can never engage presence. However, the more sinister aspect of greed is its ability to sedate and extinguish desire. It destroys the natural innocence of desire, dismantles its horizons and replaces them with a driven and atrophied possessiveness. This greed is now poisoning the earth and impoverishing its people. Having has become the sinister enemy of being.
To the judgemental eye, everything is closed in definitive frames. When the judgemental eye looks out, it sees things in terms of lines and squares. It is always excluding and separating, and therefore it never sees in a compassionate or celebratory way. To see is to judge. Sadly, the judgemental eye is always equally harsh with itself. It only sees the images of its tormented interiority projected outwards from itself. The judgemental eye harvests the reflected surface and calls it truth. It enjoys neither the forgiveness nor imagination to see deeper into the ground of things where truth is paradox. An externalist, image-driven culture is the corollary of such an ideology of facile judgement.
To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged. People who have allowed the canker of resentment into their vision can never enjoy who they are or what they have. They are always looking out towards others with resentment. Perhaps they are resentful because they see others as more beautiful, more gifted or richer than themselves. The resentful eye lives out its poverty and forgets its own inner harvest.
To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens. Indifference is one of the hallmarks of our times. It is said that indifference is necessary for power; to hold control one has to be successfully indifferent to the needs and vulnerabilities of those under control. Thus, indifference calls for a great commitment to non-vision. To ignore things demands incredible mental energy. Without even knowing it, indifference can place you beyond the frontiers of compassion, healing and love. When you become indifferent, you give all your power away. Your imagination becomes fixated in the limbo of cynicism and despair.
To the inferior eye, everyone else is greater; others are more beautiful, brilliant and gifted than you. The inferior eye is always looking away from its own treasures. It can never celebrate its own presence and potential. The inferior eye is blind to its secret beauty. The human eye was never designed to look up on a way that inflates the Other to superiority, nor to look down, reducing the Other to inferiority. To look someone in the eye is a nice testament to truth, courage and expectation. Each one stands on common, but different ground.
To the loving eye, everything is real. This art of love is neither sentimental nor naïve. Such love is the greatest criterion of truth, celebration and reality. Kathleen Raine, the Scottish poet, says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you do not see it at all. Love is the light in which we see light. Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature and destiny. If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility and depth. The loving eye can even coax pain, hurt and violence towards transfiguration and renewal. The loving eye is bright because it is autonomous and free. It can look lovingly upon anything. The loving vision does not become entangled in the agenda of power, seduction, opposition or complicity. Such vision is creative and subversive. It rises above the pathetic arithmetic of blame and judgement and engages experience at the level of its origin, structure and destiny. The loving eye sees through and beyond image and affects the deepest change. Vision is central to your presence and creativity.
To recognize how you see things can bring you self-knowledge and enable you to glimpse the treasures your life secretly holds."
This in turn reminds me of the 'Vinegar Tasters', an ancient picture from China depicting Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tsu tasting vinegar - with their reactions representing their fundamental viewpoint of the world. Below is a colourful re-make of this picture by Jacob Wayne Bryner: