There is a story in the Gospel of Mark that has long fascinated me. It is the story of Jesus attempting to heal a blind man:
Then putting spittle on his eyes, and laying his hands on him, he asked, “Can you see anything?” The man, who was beginning to see, replied, “I see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about” (Mark 8:23-24, JB).
The man was able to see, he said, but his seeing was distorted. His view of things didn’t capture reality. How is it that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently? Why is it that two people, listening to another speak, hear what that person is saying in two very different ways, and neither of them really getting hold of what the person is trying to say? Eye witnesses to a certain happening seldom see the same thing or understand it in the same way. It would seem that we are still half-blind and our vision distorted. Why? Why the wide differences of opinion in Britain about whether or not to remain in the European Union? Why the sharp distinctions in our own nation about so many things? It has always been so—it is nothing new. It is a matter of perception—“the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.” Our experiences (all the way back into our childhood) and our prejudices and mixed-up learnings give us a wrong impression of what we hear and what we see. All of us are caught up in our perceptions. “The trees that seem like people walking about, are a blown-up picture of how we are all seeing things” (Elizabeth O’Connor). We do not see things as they really are.
Keith Miller, in his book, “A Second Touch,” used this story from Mark’s gospel to suggest that we are all wounded people and that everything we do, see, experience, etc., is most often a distorted vision of reality, colored by our own unconscious and conscious experiences on life’s pilgrimage. To see clearly we must deal with those things that have fouled up our perception of reality. We need a second touch—to recover from what is now a distorted vision.
Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly (Mark 8:25, JB).
It is not “them” who need a second touch. It is each and every one of us who need a second touch in order to see reality and to connect with Love, which is at the heart of all things.