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time to spy out our vision
seeing each other, not looking at each other
The fourth month in the biblical calendar, Tammuz, begins tomorrow night at sundown. (That is, Monday the 19th.) The theme, or the association, with Tammuz in Hebrew thought is vision. It is the month of the eyes. Guard your eyes, we are told; guard your heart.
One story dealing with this month concerns the twelve spies sent into the land of Canaan by Moses. (One representative for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.) They were to “spy” out the region to determine the size of the population, the military strength, and the abundance of agriculture. They were to use their eyes. (See this in the book of Numbers 13 and 14.)
When the scouts return, they admit the lushness of “the land of milk and honey.” However, there are problems. They report seeing fortified cities—and the people who live there are giants! In comparison, we look like grasshoppers. The land devours those who dare enter it. Their advice: it’s not worth the risk. Christine Vales says, “They believed the fake news from the ten spies network.” There’s a conspiracy to stage a coup and find someone to lead them back to Egypt.
Some have an alternate vision. Joshua and Caleb acknowledge the difficulties but see a different destiny. Where the others see tragedy, they see triumph. Their eyes and their hearts imagine a different reality.
I would suggest one need not be a believer to appreciate the wisdom of this story.
It indeed is a matter of vision. When our recollection gets called into question, we often respond, “I saw it with my own eyes.” That usually settles the case, at least, if we’re not lying! What happens when we truly believe we saw it with our own eyes? How do we know what we saw truly exists? How do we know we saw the true unfolding of events?
We humans are making it even easier to not trust our eyes and ears. The falsification of images is becoming ever more elaborate and effective. One of the first major motion pictures to make those techniques a key part of the story line was Forrest Gump. Imagine, Forrest Gump meeting JFK and LBJ (and even Elvis)! We could lament the technological trickery utilized for these counterfeit countenances, these fake faces, but the genie is out of the bottle. Think of it, though: police can use sophisticated aging tools to track missing persons long lost.
Still, we are at the threshold of what artificial intelligence foreshadows. Given how much more complex our ability for mimicry continues to evolve, how much more havoc can be unleashed? We are well aware of the mischievous purposes for which the internet is used. So often, we believe we are too intelligent and savvy to be taken in by bogus claims—misinformation and disinformation. I won’t get into discussing the ease with which the powers-that-be maneuver us into censorship by pressing those very issues.
Having said that, we shouldn’t imagine the end of civilization is nigh. Perhaps we need to re-learn, or learn for the first time, what it means to not simply look, but to see.
Is it plausible during their mission of reconnaissance that Joshua and Caleb quite literally see what the other ten don’t? Do their preliminary expectations alter what they can visualize? I don’t know; perhaps not. Regardless, I have been learning (or re-learning) for myself how my willingness to see affects what I truly see. I’m moving closer to that type of leap of faith. For those uncomfortable with the word faith, I find Annette Capps’ description of faith as “an unseen energy force” helpful.
In any event, it is safe to say our differences in vision run deeper than the technological. I would suggest reliance on the technological, for good or ill, is helping to re-wire our imaginations. Artificial intelligence is able to not only trick our eyes, but what might feed the souls of many, by composing poems and sermons—the eyes of the heart. (Well, it’s on the way!)
Are we able during this time to learn to “see” each other, rather than simply “looking” at each other? When we so easily allow ourselves to be manipulated and divided up into hostile factions, to say it’s a challenge is certainly an understatement. Here’s a modest suggestion: in the next 24 hours, can we admit someone else might see something we don’t?
It is time to spy out our vision.
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