through alien eyes

Posted on June 18, 2006


through alien eyes

“Thus it may be that, for a few moments, or hours, or even days, we can enter into the heart and head and body of another culture. We will always return to our own world, for that is where our roots lie. Nevertheless, on our reentry we may be changed in some subtle yet important way. And, sometimes when we spend time living within that other culture, we are able to look back upon our own world and see it through alien eyes, appreciate its limitations as well as its beauty and attraction.” (F. David Peate, Blackfoot Physics)

Since childhood, I’ve practiced this exercise. Stepping out of myself and looking back on this world as if I’d never seen it before. As a child, I thought it was just part of being rather “different” or wierd in my outlook on life. Now I see it as a “grace” given . . . although not a “nice” or “easy” grace. Actually, sometimes this grace can feel like a curse.

Stepping outside and looking back in is something I’ve been compelled to do, not something I’ve chosen to do. It would be easier to settle into my culture, my environment, and only see what is right there in my face. It would be easier to not see things from a different perspective, and just accept “what is”. Stepping outside and looking back in brings forth the ugliness that is “normally” overlooked. AND it can also show forth the beauty that is often taken for granted.

Through alien eyes, what do I see?

I see a human race reduced to a rat race.

I see the human race as a destructive race; developing and using it’s best technology to kill its own.

I see the meaninglessness of our striving after the wind.

I see endless, thoughtless routine filling our lives with busyness.

I see the vanity of fashion and beauty.

I see lives lived with no thought of tomorrow, of others, of suffering, or of injustice.

I see lives lived only thinking of and caring for self.

I see lives directed by the god of comfortableness:

~ the comfort of the couch . . . and avoidance of service and making a difference.

~ the comfort of agreement . . . and avoidance of differences in thinking.

~ the comfort of sameness . . . and avoidance of diversity.

~ the comfort of routine and predictibility . . . and avoidance of the uncertainty of life.

~ the comfort of the pew, doing churchwork . . . and avoidance of the work of the church (justice and mercy).

ALSO, I see the beauty and mystery of a mother’s love.

I see the transformative power of a father’s love.

I see powerful impact of an act of compassion.

I see the look of hope in a child’s eyes.

I see the color of nature.

I hear the sound of water flowing over rocks.

I see the awesome endlessness of the sky.

I see the playfulness of clouds.

Do I see these things all of the time?

No. I return to my roots, I settle in, I see only what is in my face, only what matters to me.

But each time, in my reentry,

I discover a little different perspective,

a little different way of looking at things,

a little bigger view of life,

a bit more of an eternal perspective.

Have you ever asked a fish, “How’s the water?” Have you ever gotten an answer? Even if a fish could talk, it would not have an answer to that question, because it can’t see or feel his own environment; it is just “normal”, and “normal” just is.

I think that being fully human, fully alive, means observing myself (my thoughts, my feelings; really paying attention), examining my environment, analyzing the culture that so strongly shapes me; disengaging its symbiotic grasp so that I can determine who I am, who I will be, and where I am going.

If I don’t determine my course in life, then there are many, many other influences out there that will.

Sometimes it seems I’ve only just begun to “See”, to observe: becoming aware, conscious, awake.

One way of learning to “See” is using alien eyes.

For more on “Seeing” see the entry for May 14, 2006