Archive for the 'color blindness' Category

“Spiritual beings having a human experience”

January 20, 2016

I heard that this morning and I really liked it:  “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

The person I heard saying it was quoting it from someone else, and they thought it was a fairly old summation, not original to their source, either.

The person I heard it from had had a very negative experience of religion growing up, and found the distinction between spirituality and religion a welcome surprise when they discovered it later in life.  I think what’s reflected in this quotation was part of the spiritual outlook they came to as an adult.

It makes plenty of sense to me, and I think its formulation helps put the biological underpinnings of our material life experiences in a better perspective.

Hearing these words this morning I started wondering why I don’t spend more time with people who see things this way and less time trying to explain such a perspective to those who are dismissive of it — which often feels to me like trying to get someone to see the other picture in one of those specially-drawn sketches that include two entirely different depictions visible as alternatives.

With my younger son’s color blindness, he’s aware he’s missing something and has work-arounds to distinguish many purples from blues or reds from browns or greens from grays, depending on other clues and cues.  People who dismiss the spiritual tend to not discern any of what they are missing, in my experience, although I have known some atheist rationalists of a scientific bent who will admit to having intimations of something when they stare up at a starry night sky, to take one example.

Faith, color blindness, optical illusions, and doubt

May 24, 2014

Some people have what turns out to be a temporary willingness to believe in forces in the universe greater than themselves — God, if you prefer — and then lose the sense that such forces exist.  I’ve wondered how that loss of faith occurs.

My current thinking is that in some cases it is a matter of entertaining, however briefly, another way of looking at the situation, and hence the world, another “explanation” of what is going on, an explanation that is considerably less expansive and optimistic and encouraging.  You look at the phenomenon from another angle and all of a sudden you don’t see the colored numbers among the dots on the colorblindness test picture, you don’t see both ways of looking at one of those pictures that contains two images that can’t be viewed simultaneously but can be toggled between.

Here’s an example.  I have lots of flowers in my gardens and grass I didn’t plant, columbines, bleeding hearts, purple spikey things, black eyed susans, wild rose bushes, fuzzy pinkish half-spheres — a lot.  It can feel to me as if nature is helping me with my gardening.  I confess I can’t always keep up with doing my gardening myself and I am tickled when there are beautiful plants I didn’t plant.  I feel embraced and supported by the universe.

I could see the phenomenon instead in terms of a series of steps:  the scattering of seeds through the activity of birds, the scattering of seeds by the wind, what have you.  I don’t say these mechanisms don’t occur, but that “engineering” explanation falls flat for me.  I see the flowers and I am thrilled.  The flatness of the engineering explanation and my thrill don’t correspond.

In a way I think I have an attachment to the universe and its currents, just as I work on detachment from the world of human activity and its ups and downs.  I understand that some people do the opposite, are attached to the human activity part of life and detach from the currents of the universe.  Of course, some people are able to maintain helpful relationships with both the currents and the activity.

I think lack of faith, though, can be a real difficulty with recalling how to look at the world with trust in the universe beyond what we understand through the engineering explanations.  The failure of trust may occur, I am thinking, just from seeing the infrastructure.  I think it occurs when the competing explanation shuts out a basis for hope that there is always grace, always a spiritual safety net that may come into play when it serves.  I think it occurs when there is a sense from the competing explanation that there is something wrong — some unfairness because of others’ behavior or some cause for embarrassment or shame on account of one’s own — if the explanation implies something is wrong with the world, I think the perspective of faith may be difficult to maintain.

I have this difficulty with interpersonal relationships much more than I have it with my relationship with the universe at large.  Once trust has been undermined between me and another, the whole relationship tends to deflate.  I have difficulty going back to seeing the person and the attitude behind their behavior the way I did before; I have a hard time believing in them any longer.  If they do nothing to address that head on, the relationship kind goes into an agnostic category:  yes, I believe you might be involved with me, but no, I’m not all in anymore, I am holding something back, not necessarily because I’ve decided to, but because I have a sense of “fool me once, shame’s on you, fool me twice …” that is making that impossible for me to do.

I don’t do this with God.  I tend to figure it’s me and my not looking at the thing in the most helpful way, when I have trouble accepting something in my life.  I have found that when I’ve taken this approach in human social relations, I get taken advantage of.  It has been the rare situation in my experience to have a major falling out with someone and then be able to negotiate back to a close relationship (and not for want of trying) — the falling out usually turns out to be for good reason and one that will repeat if I give it a second or third opportunity to repeat.

A point of reference

September 3, 2011

When my younger son was in nursery school, I remember dropping him off there one morning (my husband was out of town on business) and getting into a conversation with him and a teacher I didn’t otherwise see (she was the drop-off teacher, not his regular teacher).  He was coloring, and something came up in which he referred to the color purple as blue, or to the color blue as purple.  So, the teacher and I embarked on an effort to help him distinguish between them and to keep them straight (blue like Grover, purple like Barney, that kind of thing).  The teacher and I were both puzzled — we knew he was “smarter” than mixing up the colors this way, but the issue persisted without resolution.

Well, six months later, what do you know, at his annual check-up with his pediatrician, Dr. Nau tested him for color blindness.  Bingo.  (He doesn’t see the red in the purple, so the two colors, purple and blue, look indistinguishable unless there are other cues present he can use.) Boy, did I feel sheepish, and beyond sheepish.  The teacher and I apologized to him.

I remind myself of this experience, of having tried, under the assumption that they could, to get someone to do something they didn’t have the hardware to do, when I encounter a person whose behavior baffles me — I entertain the notion that maybe they can’t, as in, can’t do better.  Some issues are less obvious than color recognition and rods and cones and all that.  But these issues still may involve physiological underpinnings, and even when they don’t, there may actually still be a reason that I can’t see that would explain why they persist in behavior that makes no sense to me.  It helps me feel more compassion, seeing people as having limitations, and then I find myself less frustrated with their behavior (for one thing, it’s a lot easier for me not to take it personally).