Meditations on blindness and sight, perception and awareness: songs, prayers, poems and brief commentary on themes that rise up in John 9

I think we all suffer from acute blindness at times. Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I’m just beginning my journey, and my eyes aren’t fully open yet. — Olivia Thirlby

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind … — William Shakespeare

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. — Pope John XXIII
Songs about ‘Blindness’:
Blind Leading the Blind by Mumford & Sons (rock)
Blind Fools by Megan Davies & Curtis Peoples (country)
I Am Free by Newsboys (Christian rock)
I Go Blind by Hootie & The Blowfish (rock)
I Wish I Were Blind by Bruce Springsteen (rock)
Seeing Blind by Niall Horan & Maren Morris (country)
Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel with Blind Boys of Alabama (ballad/gospel)
Blind Boy by Musical Youth (pop)
Loving Blind by Clint Smith (country)
Love Is Blind by David Coverdale/Whitesnake (rock)
Lord You’ve Been Good To Me by 5 Blind Boys (gospel)
He Saw It All by the Booth Brothers (Christian country)
If You Me To by Ginny Owens (Christian)
Live Music with Blind Boys of Alabama (gospel)
Blind Man by Aerosmith (rock)
Blind Love by Tom Waits (country)
You’re Blind by Run/DMC (rock/rap)
Blind by Dababy (rap – includes explicit lyrics/some cursing)

Songs about Sight & Seeing: My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton (rock)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedance Clearwater Revival (country/rock)
Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne (rock)
Look at Me by Sarah Vaughan (jazz/blues)
I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos (rock/soul)
The Light In Your Eyes by LeAnn Rimes (country)
When I Look at the World by U2
I Look to You by Whitney Houston (rock)
The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra (jazz/big band)
Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (pop)
Close Your Eyes by Meghan Trainor (country)
Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer (pop)
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (rock ballad)
Don’t Close Your Eyes cover by Tim McGraw
In Another’s Eyes by Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks (country)
In My Daughter’s Eyes by Martina McBride
Sue Looks Good to Me by Alicia Keys (pop)
Look It Here by Public Enemy (rap)
Look Me In the Heart by Tina Turner (rock)
Look at Me Now by Kirk Franklin (rock/rap/gospel)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Peaches & Herb & again Close Your Eyes The Five Keys (soul/rock)
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (rock ballad)
When I Look in Your Eyes by Firehouse (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble (pop)
Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne & Lita Ford (rock ballad)
Take a Look at Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (pop ballad)
Angel Eyes by the Jeff Healey Band (rock)
My Eyes Have Seen You and I Looked at You by The Doors (rock)
Sight for Sore Eyes by Aerosmith (rock)
Look at Me Now by Charlies Puth (pop)
Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson (pop ballad)
The Eyes of a Woman by Journey (rock)

PRAYER by Richard Rohr
God of all Light and Truth, just make sure that I am not a blind man or woman.
Keep me humble and honest, and that will be more than enough work for you.

PRAYER by Nadia Bolz-Weber
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs, humble us.
Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness …
Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.

PRAYER by St Augustine
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.
Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out,
and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and
have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance,
and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue
What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

RICHARD ROHR COMMENTARY   (from Center for Action & Contemplation)
Finally, the great theater-piece Gospel is about a man born blind. … We can only touch upon the surface here, but enough to point you beneath the surface, I hope. Let me list in quick succession the major themes so you cannot miss them: 

  • The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.
  • The moral blame game as to why or who caused human suffering is a waste of time.
  • The man does not even ask to be healed. It is just offered and given.
  • Religious authorities are often more concerned about control and correct theology than actually healing people. They are presented as narrow and unloving people throughout the story.
  • Many people have their spiritual conclusions before the facts in front of them. He is a predefined “sinner” and has no credibility for them.
  • Belief in and love of Jesus come after the fact, subsequent to the healing. Perfect faith or motivation is not always a prerequisite for God’s action. Sometimes God does things for God’s own purposes.
  • Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”
  • The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found Everyone, Myself as well.
― Rumi

COMMENTARY on the STORY of the BLIND MAN

… Of the two choices, Jesus picked a third, unbinding sin from the body, deformity from purity.  Before sight was restored, God’s presence was invoked in this marginal space, this “inappropriate” body.  God’s presence was invoked within the blind man – within the “imperfect”, within the “other”.  And when his eyes were opened, God’s light came pouring out from this man, casting into stark relief the social and religious ideas that had kept him out for so long. — Eliza (UCC minister see full posting on her blog)

Jesus doesn’t ask the blind guy when he heals him what he’ll be looking at for the rest of his life. — Anne Lamott

It will make a weak man mighty. it will make a mighty man fall. It will fill your heart and hands or leave you with nothing at all. It’s the eyes for the blind and legs for the lame. It is the love for hate and pride for shame. That’s the power of the gospel. — Ben Harper

It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ON SEEING & BLINDNESS as STATES of SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION

It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation. It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem. And it means recognizing that any given situation has many different aspects—positive as well as problematic. — Dalai Lama

We are only as blind as we want to be. ― Maya Angelou

Spirituality doesn’t mean a blind belief in a spiritual teaching. Spirituality is a practice that brings relief, communication, and transformation. Everyone needs a spiritual dimension in life. Without a spiritual dimension, it’s very challenging to be with the daily difficulties we all encounter. With a spiritual practice, you’re no longer afraid. Along with your physical body, you have a spiritual body. The practices of breathing, walking, concentration, and understanding can help you greatly in dealing with your emotions, in listening to and embracing your suffering, and in helping you to recognize and embrace the suffering of another person. If we have this capacity, then we can develop a real and lasting spiritual intimacy with ourselves and with others. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. — Ralph Ellison

Blindness is an unfortunate handicap but true vision does not require the eyes. — Helen Keller

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. — Mark Twain

Our very eyes, Are sometimes, like our judgments, blind. — William Shakespeare

There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments-and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. — Richard Rohr

Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. — Ayn Rand

An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

NOBEL SPEECH (excerpt from FULL LECTURE) by Toni Morrison
“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures. “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”
      In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
     One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
     She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
     The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
     Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
     Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.
     For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised…

I look at the worldLangston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space   
Assigned to me.
 
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
 
I look at my own body   
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent — John Milton

When I consider
how my light is spent,
Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent
which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless,
though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker,
and present
My true account,
lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour,
light denied?’
I fondly ask.
But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies,
‘God doth not need
Either man’s work
or his own gifts;
who best
Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best.
His state
Is Kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and
Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only
stand and wait.’

Thoughts on prayer and when Holy Love prays for us

I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and … almost involuntary in my life … And when I talk about prayer, I mean really … what Rumi says in that wonderful line, “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”. — Mary Oliver

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. — John Bunyan

Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God. — Billy Graham

Songs About Prayer


ONE SONG — Rumi
Every war and every conflict
between human beings has happened
because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different
on this wall than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still the same light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

A PRAYER FOR YOUR WILD SOUL— John O’Donohue
Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.

WHAT WE NEED IS HERE— Wendell Berry
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Thoughts on Prayer

For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God. — Saint Teresa of Avila

Exercise, prayer, and meditation are examples of calming rituals. They have been shown to induce a happier mood and provide a positive pathway through life’s daily frustrations. — Chuck Norris

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. — Soren Kierkegaard

I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the past twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple. Help. Thanks. Wow. … You may in fact be wondering what I even mean when I use the word “prayer.” … Prayer is private, even when we pray with others. It is communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding. Let’s say it is communication from one’s heart to God. Or … to the Good, the force that is beyond our comprehension but that in our pain or supplication or relief we don’t need to define or have proof of or any established contact with. Let’s say it is what the Greeks called the Really Real, what lies within us, beyond the scrim of our values, positions, convictions, and wounds. Or let’s say it is a cry from deep within to Life or Love, with capital L’s … … Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we’re invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence. — Anne Lamott

HELP, THANKS, WOW (excerpts) — Anne Lamott

And when you’re done, you may take a long, quavering breath and say, ‘Help.’ People say ‘help’ without actually believing anything hears that. But it is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.
… A lot of the time we don’t know when we’re surrendering that we’re actually, at the same time, maybe establishing connection … to a power greater than ourselves — or something in the next concentric circle out whose name is not me. So, that to me is where help begins. You know, we’re often ashamed of asking for so much help because it seems selfish or petty or narcissistic, but I think, if there’s a God — and I believe there is — that God is there to help. That’s what God’s job is.  — Anne Lamott
 

Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. … It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. … The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks.
… It’s amazement and relief that you caught a break; that your family caught a break; that you didn’t have any reason to believe that things were really going to be OK, and then they were and you just can’t help but say thank you. — Anne Lamott

Wow is the praise prayer. The prayer where we’re finally speechless — which in my case is saying something. … When I don’t know what else to do I go outside, and I see the sky and the trees and a bird flies by, and my mouth drops open again with wonder at the just sheer beauty of creation. And I say, ‘Wow.’ … You say it when you see the fjords for the first time at dawn, or you say it when you first see the new baby, and you say, ‘Wow. This is great.’ Wow is the prayer of wonder.  — Anne Lamott

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
— Henry Viscardi

COMMENTARY on CHRIST & HOLY SPIRIT PRAYING for US

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. — Hebrews 7:25


God looks on the heart more than anything else, really. Jesus said, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). If that is the case, then why pray? The answer is pretty simple. Prayer is not informing God; prayer is inviting God. When I call out to the Lord in prayer and offer my petition, I’m not informing God of something he doesn’t already know. Rather, I’m inviting God into my situation, into my challenges, into my problems. — Rev Greg Laurie


When God Prays for You (excerpt)— Keep Believing Ministries

When we can’t find the words, the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father with groans that can’t be put in words. And when we aren’t sure how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God. This is a wonderful promise of God because as we go through life, we face many situations where we simply don’t know how to pray. In those moments we can be sure that God the Holy Spirit is praying for us. I. Our Weakness

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26a).

… We don’t know how to pray as we ought. Literally, this means we don’t know what to pray for. And this is one of our chief problems in prayer … Second, we don’t know what is best for us. … And so it goes. We don’t know what to pray for because our vision is so limited. II. The Spirit’s Help

“But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26b).

… Paul says the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that cannot be expressed in words. (Literally it is “wordless groanings.”) In those moments when we cannot pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. It also means that when we lift up our feeble and even ignorant prayers to God, the Holy Spirit takes them and translates them into the language of heaven. …And because the Holy Spirit always prays according to the will of God, that’s the prayer that is answered. … Matthew Henry says the Holy Spirit “excites praying graces.” He makes us want to pray, he teaches us how to pray, and he helps us as we pray. III. Our Confidence

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27).

… It is God praying to God in God’s name on behalf of God’s children! What an amazing thought this is. … In your weakness, when you feel desperate about the things that truly matter to you, and you don’t know what to say, and all you can do is cry out “O God!” the message is, “Don’t worry. That’s enough because there is Someone who is praying for you.”

Daily Advent Devotional: Day 20 – Fri, Dec 18

Gratitude is the birthplace of joy. Or vice versa.
            Appreciation and perspective enable you to embrace whatever comes. To find resilience in hard times. To opt for creative responses to challenging circumstances. To be curious rather than angry. It cultivates compassion and connection. Gratitude permits your starting point to be one of acceptance and adaptation, of positive thinking and an attitude of hope and empowerment. You can find beauty and satisfaction even in the midst of thorny times.
            With gratitude, you cherish what is already within reach. And value whatever gifts and experiences come to fruition. You may respect your history, savor the present moment, and believe in the potential of your future. All while experiencing keen awareness of now.
Rev Gail

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. —Psalm 92:4

The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. ― Brother David Steindl-Rast

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. — Karl Barth

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott

Daily Advent Devotional: Day 18 – Wed, Dec 16

Joy may also come from practicing kindness and/or serving others. This approach to life feeds a sense of purpose and optimism. Kindness can happen in simple, daily interactions: recognize the dignity of another person and choose compassion and courtesy in your exchanges. Likewise, you can serve others informally by being a good neighbor and caring for others with acts of thoughtfulness, or more formally by volunteering for a cause in which you believe. Such outreach can be as modest as making a meal or checking in with people by phone. It may take a more committed path as a dedicated volunteer who supports others, and should be done with balance and boundaries.
            As a spiritual practice, this is an empowering approach to life. It identifies your competencies and capabilities, and reminds you that you have choices. It affirms your value and purpose as a human being and helps to acknowledge others, also.  
            Being kind and being of service enlarge personal perspectives. They alter the understanding of others’ circumstances, thus allowing you to recognize your own blessings. They cultivate appreciation for your own individual agency and the ability to be helpful to others. With kindness and service, through small acts or major forms of participation, you may renew your internal sense of fulfillment and joy. — Rev Gail

… for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. — Psalm 63:7

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them … — Psalm 5:11

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. ― Mark Twain

The joy that isn’t shared dies young. — Anne Sexton

Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… It’s your responsibility to love it, or change it. – Chuck Palahniuk

When you can stop and ask yourself, “How can I help,” or, “How can I be of service,” you create a new internal dialogue that leads to alternative and expanded ways of thinking and responding. … You have something to offer, a gift brought into this world to share with others. It could be your ability to listen, give a great hug, advocate for those in need, build something, or be there for someone In being able to share this gift, you build a greater sense of connection and belonging, something you can relate to as a basic need. Joy is often a side effect of what can happen when you are in the service of something greater than yourself. — Rachelle Williams

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back. — Anne Lamott

Advent Day 2: Daily Devotional

Perhaps you light the candles in a darkened room or as the sun drops beneath the horizon. The gloaming gathers. You watch the heightened contrast as the flame burns.

In that moment, become aware both of the surrounding twilight and the flickering light. Both light and its opposite — the darkness — are gifts. Each reveals some aspect of our humanity. Each allows vulnerability and calls upon strength. Each nurtures new life.

Within the deep, fecund dormancy of winter, extended sleep precipitates renewal until spring arrives. With every day, sun offers its essential contribution to the cycle of death and rebirth. Hope thrives both in the darkness and the light.  — Rev Gail

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114

O hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler turning aside for the night? Jeremiah 14:8

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.— Anne Lamott

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. — French proverb

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