The keynote in this lesson is relief and celebration, celebration of the end of blindness. It feels much like that line from "Amazing Grace": "Was blind, but now I see." If you really felt that way, wouldn't you feel indescribable relief? Wouldn't you be celebrating?
I just saw a news story of a grown, married woman who, with the aid of some kind of device, was supposed to be able to hear for the first time in her life. The researcher turned the device on and spoke a sentence to her. The woman paused for a second and then just broke down. She sobbed and sobbed. It was the first thing she had ever heard.
In terms of the pain of blindness, I think of the movie Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino plays Colonel Slade, who some years earlier had blinded himself through being careless with a grenade. Charlie is a student who is accompanying him on a trip which, unbeknownst to Charlie, is planned as one last fling that culminates in Colonel Slade killing himself. Finally, it comes out: Charlie finds Slade about to put the gun to his head, and tries to persuade the Colonel not to go through with it:
Charlie: You're just in a slump right now.
Slade: Slump? No slump, Charlie. I'm bad. I'm not bad. No. I'm rotten.
So there is more than physical blindness. There is a darkness in him that goes deeper than mere lack of sight. He is convinced he is rotten.
Charlie: You f****d up, all right? So what? So everybody does it. Get on with your life, would ya?
Colonel Slade: What life? I got no life! I'm in the dark here! You understand? I'm in the dark.
We are all Colonel Slade. We are all blind. And deep-down, we all believe that we are bad. No, we believe we are rotten.
The difference is that we think we see. We look out and we see a world full of darkness. Think of all the darkness you see in the world: cruelty, corruption, abuse, injustice, irrationality, prejudice, exploitation, war, sickness, death—the list goes on and on. It's as if a thick blanket of darkness has been spread over the entire globe.
What we don't realize is that the darkness we see is not real darkness, real evil. It is merely the darkness of blindness. Can you imagine that? As you look out at the darkness of the world, imagine that the darkness you see is the darkness of blindness. You're not seeing anything real. The lights have gone out, that's all. As the lesson says, "Now we see that darkness is our own imagining" (1:5).
Today is about the lights coming on. This is not about physical light, which is not real light. This is the light of understanding. This is the kind of light we are talking about when we say, "I see the light." We don't mean, "The physical lights have been switched on." We mean, "I finally understand."
And what will we understand when at last "we can see" (1:2)? We will understand that everything is holy. Yes, there are bodies exploiting other bodies. But behind those insubstantial bodies, we will see that the minds directing those bodies are actually holy. They don't know it, but they are. Thus, behind the transparent fog of warring bodies, we will see the vast radiance of minds shining with holiness.
In short, we will see God's world. We will see the real world. Usually, when we talk about the "real world," we are talking about leaving behind a childhood fantasy in which everything is lovely and rosy, in which all the people mean well and all the animals are friends. As we enter adulthood, we slowly start realizing that things aren't like that. The real world is a much tougher, nastier, and more unforgiving place, in which everyone is out for himself. And in a sense, we're right—that is how the forms behave. They are nasty.
But the forms themselves are unreal. So in seeing how they work, we still aren't seeing the real world. We only do that, we only "get real," when we see God's world, when we see past the mists of darkness to that glowing world of holiness, and say, "My sight is finally restored, and I can see! At last I understand! At last I see that, in truth, everyone and everything is made of pure holiness!" With that understanding, all our fear will be gone. All the tiptoeing around, waiting for the darkness to pounce on us, will be in the past. Instead, we will fall in love with the unearthly beauty and holiness we see in everyone. And with the rapturous vision of holiness will come one final realization: "Let me forgive Your holy world today, that I may look upon its holiness and understand it but reflects my own" (1:7).
I cannot end without at least some comment on paragraph 2. The point of it is clear: God's got everything covered. He awaits us as our goal and He walks beside us, making sure we reach that goal. He is both the End and the Means of our journey. Can we see Him that way? Can we think of Him as "our Love" (2:1)? Can we regard Him as "the End we seek" (2:3). Can we think of Him as walking "beside us showing us the way" (2:1), making sure we come home to Him? Can we let in the fact that when it comes to our journey, "He fails in nothing" (2:2)?