The other day I was looking at a photo of Helen Keller and the thought suddenly came to me that not once in her life did she get to see what she looked like! She had no idea what hairstyle she was wearing, what colors looked like or whether or not her nose was larger than she might want. How fortunate we are that we can see which is something we most probably take for granted since we have seen all of our lives! At the same time to the extent that we are not reflective concerning our interior life then we share Ms. Keller’s experience of blindness. The difference between Helen and us is that her lack of exterior sight seems to have increased her understanding of her own heart!
I lived in a monastery with a fellow-monk named Brother Sergius with whom I shared a wonderful friendship! He was an incredible iconographer and we shared an interest in art as well as all things Russian. The monastery’s everyday schedule helped to put reins on his impulsive desire to stay up all night and paint! After I had been there ten years Serge decided to leave the monastery and for months afterward he was still present to me whenever I passed his now-empty room. As time went on he started making original handmade leather goods and by all accounts had a fantastic business! So much so that he rented a store for his business as well as an apartment in the basement in which to live and use as a workshop.
One afternoon we received word he had died. Sometime during the previous night while preparing the store for opening he had teetered on a tall ladder while trying to change a light bulb that was just out of reach. Apparently the ladder shot out from under him and he crashed into the floor… and died. I mourned his death far longer than I mourned his departure from the monastery since I could no longer delude myself with wishful thinking he might someday come back. My only consolation was that he died pursuing his dream full-tilt! Serge often dangled beyond the point of safety as if the rules of physics did not apply to him! This is a kind of interior blindness where one convinces themself that reality does not apply to them! While Ms. Keller might never have known which hairstyle looked better or worse on her she was determined to live more fully than those with sight but who may not truly have any vision! Perhaps like Brother Sergius we too have no clue about what drives us to defy reality along our own journey?