Blind Spots

Photo by Quentin Lagache

Photo by Quentin Lagache

It requires as much caution to tell the truth as to conceal it. – Baltasar Gracian, 1601 - 1656

We all have aspects of ourselves and the world that we cannot see. We're simply too close to it. Instead, we construct stories about “the way it is” and reel with shock when those stories get shattered or undone.

These blind spots must serve a purpose.

I suspect they keep us moving forward, making decisions and taking risks that would be impossible without some suspension of disbelief. We need to trust in the people and the world around us to some degree or we'd become frozen and paralyzed with fear.

We operate from the safety zone of our carefully constructed stories. We need these stories to make sense out of the seeming chaos of the world. Not that the world is by it’s nature chaotic, but rather as humans our vision is too small most of the time to see the big picture.

In our myopic dance through life, we grab onto whatever view serves us on that part of the journey.

Our lives are always about what we put our attention on, to the exclusion of everything else. This allows us to immerse ourselves completely in an experience, a relationship, a situation. Inevitably, this intense focus blocks us from seeing other viewpoints or perspectives, such that we actually become blind to them, and are often shocked when either someone points them out to us, or something changes and we can see what before was truly invisible to us.

Once the blinders come off and what was invisible is now visible, we may question our inability to see what is truly obvious to us now. It is akin to waking up or shifting from a distorted lens to a clear one.

Sometimes this shift in perception can be quite a shock to the system. Depending on the depth and scope of the blindness, it may take days, weeks, months or even years to adjust to a different viewpoint.

If you really believed in something and found out you’d been lied to, your entire sense of trust will be badly shaken. Trust is not easily cultivated, especially after it’s been trampled.

It is here that we can stand back for a moment and ask ourselves, were we truly unaware of all the factors when we walked into a situation or relationship, or did we see things, but choose instead to ignore them, hoping they might disappear or change.

Did we in fact decide to see only what we wanted to see?

What is the lesson here? Isn't it true that blind spots allow us to suspend our disbelief?

Think about it. Would we ever do anything if we could see the whole picture before we engaged with it? How much truth can we handle? Most of us cling onto our ignorance is bliss equation for dear life. Perhaps for good reason. We want to think we have some control over our lives and our stories. If our illusions are stripped away too quickly the delicate balance between chaos and order would be disrupted, leaving us feeling unmoored and adrift.

Our illusions are like filters that regulate and titrate the inflow of the truth in doses that are manageable.

Without those filters, the feeling of chaos would be overwhelming and if too severe, might result in what is called a psychotic break, rendering us unable to engage with in the world at large.

The other extreme, of course, is resisting change completely. In that case, we seal ourselves tightly into a very small world that we are able to control. We reduce our range of experiences to that which does not threaten the status quo. This keeps us in a perpetual state of vigilance, for we are afraid of losing what we have and must dedicate our energy to protecting it at all costs.

The best pathway is to strike a balance in between--to stay fluid and flexible and open to change so that when it comes, we can welcome it, rather than be jolted or blown apart by it. Too much disillusionment and disappointment can make us bitter and cynical. In spite of so many of my own illusions falling away in recent years, I still trust in the goodness of life and in the magic of possibilities. Sometimes I use my stories and visions to propel me forward–-they are nothing more than a vehicle–and when it’s time to exit, I let them go.

In the meantime, I try and enjoy the ride.