Monday, October 24, 2011

Whose Eyes Do You See the World Through?

I remember a comic strip years ago where a fraudulent evangelist was hosting one of his high-energy church services.  His altar was at the top of 10 or 15 steps and he invited people to climb the steps to be healed by him.

A man who had spent his entire life walking with the aid of crutches came forward and with great struggle, ascended up the stairs to the altar and begged for his legs to be healed.

The phony evangelist spread his hands, yelled “Be healed” at the top of his lungs and kicked the crutches out of the hands of the man.  As the man stumbled, tumbled and fell down the stairs, arms and legs going everywhere, the preacher yelled out “He’s not only walking, he’s dancing” to which the congregation responded with cries of “Praise the Lord”.

The congregation saw what the evangelist wanted them to see - they were seeing the world through his eyes.

The man with the crutches saw a different reality.

The danger of seeing the world through the vision of others

Sadly, many of us spend most of our lives looking through the eyes of others.  We seek to live values as defined by others.  We choose to accept the “knowledge” of others instead of learning it for ourselves.  We allow people to make sure that their needs are met before considering our own.  And then there is the most insidious form of opinion-forming of all; when we allow others to form our opinions of ourselves.

People in the business of manipulating others count on these things, whether they be people like the fraudulent minister described above, a corrupt business person, a politician serving his or her needs instead of the needs of their constituents or any self-serving individual.

They make it look obvious to everyone that what they proclaim is the truth and if we disagree with the truth, then there is something wrong with us.  Even worse, they convince many around us to think the same way such that eventually, many are afraid to think for themselves with the fear that their idea will be alone, defenseless and considered incorrect at best or idiotic (potentially treason-like) at worst.

What triggered this thought was President Obama’s announcement the other day that all the troops in Iraq were coming home by the end of 2011.

He reiterated that he had kept a campaign promise made during the last election to bring the troops home and now Democrat supporters are rallying around the fulfilled promise of the Commander-in-Chief.

The only problem is that this isn’t quite what happened.

The truth is that the US was negotiating with Iraq for American troops to remain in Iraq (counter to the President’s election promise), some of whom to serve as advisors to the Iraqi military and some to serve as a deterrent in case Iran wanted to cast a covetous eye in the direction of Iraq.  With the failure of the negotiations and the demand by Iraq that the soldiers leave practically immediately, the President is spinning the diplomatic defeat into “bringing the troops home as promised”.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan announced this weekend that should the US take a strong stand against Pakistan for perceived “lack of support in the war against terror”, then Afghanistan under President Karzai would immediately side against the US to defend Pakistan.

With friends like these …….

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US taxpayer an estimated $1.3 trillion with more than 4,00 killed-in-action and 32,000 wounded.

And at the end of the human and financial sacrifice, we are being asked to embrace the positive results that the politicians see.

The only challenge is …. are there really any positive outcomes to see as a result of these actions?

Yes, Osama Bin Laden is dead, something President Obama noted as a victory the other day.

And yet, if this is the primary victory that we cite after all of the sacrifice, surely there has been no more expensive manhunt in world history than this.

Looking through different eyes

If you are a politician, you tell us that Al Qaeda’s ability to wage war has been practically destroyed while asking to be reelected as a protector of the people.

If you are military leader, you tell us that we shouldn’t be so confident, that the enemy is more complex than ever which is why you are asking for permission to build better weapons.

If you are the Department of Homeland Security, you tell us that never before have we been in greater danger at home, thus justifying the need for sweeping changes in personal and physical privacy to assure the safety of the public.

If you are someone on Wall Street making millions each year in salary and bonus, you tell us that bailouts and such are necessary to preserve the American (and in fact the global) system while tightening the screws on the average citizen who can barely survive from one day to the next.

With these and other concepts, many Americans fight each other in coffee shops, the media and lately, with #OWS, in the streets over the truth of these and other statements and their ramifications.

But whose opinions are being used as the basis for the debates?

I find when I discuss these and other issues with people, they often can’t give me their own opinions.  You can usually pick these people out – when they state an opinion and you ask “how do you know?”, they usually get very angry or frustrated and rely on intimidation instead of logic and knowledge to make their point.

In the end, many of them don’t give me their own opinion but rather, they give me someone else’s …. the world as seen through the eyes of the people striving to direct them toward someone else’s preferred outcome.

We can do better – an informed opinion is a powerful one

As long as the best opinion we have is someone else’s, we will never have a chance to create a better world.

If instead, we look through the eyes of the downtrodden, the impoverished, the homeless, the hungry, the abused, the war widow, the fatherless / motherless child whose parent was lost in war, the hardworking person who lost everything through no significant action on their part, etc. , we have an opportunity to see a different world.

Once we truly see it, only then we can change it.

It is true that everyone’s perception is influenced and tainted by their own life experiences.  However, if we are going to allow our opinions to be formed through the eyes of others, then let’s choose the eyes of people whose vision reflects a greater sense of reality for the average person.

And maybe then, even if we insist on not forming our own opinion, we can at least form an opinion of greater value than many of the opinions we are forming or that are being formed for us.

A Great Correction is sweeping through the world, carrying with it a momentum that cannot be stopped.

While it has a life of its own, I believe the result, whether negative or positive, is still within our ability to direct.

Whether we choose to make it a positive or negative result depends on whose eyes we are looking through.

Which in turn determines whether we will truly be dancing at the foot of the stairs or lying at the bottom of the stairs in a crumpled heap when the Great Correction reaches its climactic conclusion.

If nothing else, look through the eyes of our children and then ask ourselves if we are making the right choices.

And then go make them.

In service and servanthood,


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