I know I am not the most observant person in the world. Well that is partly true. I have tested highly in recognition of differences in colour. I am better than most people at being able to say that one colour is slightly darker then another. I am also pretty good at recognising when people get new glasses. When I ask a person if they are wearing new glasses, quite often the first comment I get from that person is that I am the first person to have noticed. I don't know why, but I can usually spot changes in persons eyewear.
But in other forms of observation, I am completely useless. I get lost very easily. Without Siri and GPS, and sometimes even with the help of Siri and GPS, it does not take me long to get lost. Differences in surroundings for me, tend to get blurred into a harmony. One neighbourhood looks pretty much the same to me as another neighbourhood. Oh sure some cities have distinctive landmarks that make it a bit easier to identify a place. No other place in the world quite looks like Sydney with its harbour, opera house and bridge. Toronto is distinctive for the CN Tower. Vancouver is distinctive for the North Shore Mountains. But put me into a neighbourhood somewhere far from the downtown landmarks, and I get lost fairly easily.
I also tend not to notice subtle changes in my neighbourhood. For instance, today I noticed that four buildings had been levelled on Pacific Highway to make new for a new high rise apartment block. I commented to the person next to me at the bus stop, that it seemed strange to look across the street and see a gap where the dry cleaners, restaurant, and clinic used to stand. The person next to me at the bus stop said that yes, he had noticed that gap for the past week- ever since the bull dozers had done their job. I had been at that bus stop several times in that week. Why hadn't I noticed the disappearance of those buildings in that week?
I guess I only have the capacity to recognise so many things. I recognise colour but sometimes not my location. I think I am quite intuitive when meeting people, better than some people. But other things I don't notice- the mechanics of an item, changes in the environment, etc. My gifts in observation are different than your gifts in observation. I try to explain away my lack of visual acuity by making excuses for myself. I think to myself that maybe, I was engrossed in something else and did not notice the buildings coming down. Maybe it is all to do with my near sightedness. Maybe I was staring at my phone like so many people do. Maybe I had noticed but hadn't thought that the disappearance of the buildings was important enough to remember. Who knows why I didn't notice? I just didn't. And I am sure that I am not alone in this contextual blindness. Others walk past obvious things all of the time.
This past week, myself and the rest of the world held their breath, as 12 school boys and their coach were trapped in caves in Thailand. Rescuing the boys was no easy matter. They would have to traverse through 4 kilometres of dark, winding, tunnels flooded with polluted water. Like millions of others, I breathed a sigh of relief when the last five of the hapless travellers were rescued last night. Millions of people from around the world prayed for the safety of the school team. Countless people grieved when one diver, who was trying to bring help to the team, died in one rescue attempt. And millions celebrated when the last person was brought out of the cave. It was as if at one moment all of us recognised the significance of this event and that it brought us all together.
But how many other events do we miss. Children are suffering in "concentration camp" environments in off shore detention units in Manus, Nauru, and along the US border with Mexico. Why can't we see their suffering? Syrian children are being killed by bombs from Russia, Syria, ISIS, and the Western countries. Why do we turn our eyes off from this suffering? Someone does a lot of good work and is trying to make their neighbourhood a better place, yet somehow we tend to not see this good news.
In short, our vision is limited and our world is infinite. We can only see so much of what is happening around us, otherwise we drown in sensory overload. Yes we should try to be more aware of the things around us: the sights, the sounds, the joys, and the sufferings. But we will continue to only be aware of a small part of what is happening around us. For every time there is a story like the boys soccer team in a cave where everyone becomes aware, there are a hundred other stories that we miss. I know I will continue to expand my awareness and vision to try to see more things in the world, but I am still a person who will be tethered to my GPS looking for the correct route. Blessings.
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