Turning the Plate
“The brain and the eyes have a special interrelationship beyond what you might normally consider. While most people think that what you see is simply what your eyes “see” and send to your brain, the truth is that much of what we see is actually information made up by our brain – things that our eyes never actually see.”(1)
One example of this is our blind spot. Every human eye has a functional blind spot devoid of any visual receptors. The reason that we don’t notice this empty space in our field of view is that our brain fills it in with its best guess of what should be there. While we aren’t generally aware of this process problems can arise when the real information that is missing is very large and important.
In Oliver Sacks book, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, a story is told about a stroke patient who could only see the right side of things. For example, at supper the patient could only see the right side of the plate and the food that was on that side. The patient would eat the food on the right and the food on the left remained, as it was unseen. The patient had to be shown and eventually learned to rotate the plate until all the food came into view and could be eaten.
In the first reading today we find that King David has a severe blind spot, not in his eye but in his conscience. Having plotted the murder of Uriah on the battlefield and taken Uriah’s wife to be his own he now resumes his life as if nothing ever happened. He is unable to comprehend the damage he has done.
In order to break through the blindness the prophet Nathan tells a story of such injustice that David’s anger is kindled.It is then that Nathan deftly “turns the plate” allowing David to see that the story is really about him.
Self-deception or failing to see our own faults is one type of blind spot but there is another type of blindness visible in the Gospel today. This deficit is failing to see the truth that is right before our eyes. One of the major themes in the Gospel of Mark is that of failing to see the true identity of Jesus. It takes a storm at sea and a miracle from Jesus, preventing the near drowning of the ship’s crew, for the disciples to even begin to ask, “Who is this man?” Despite miracles and healings the disciples will constantly find themselves in a state of doubt about who Jesus really is. Not until the resurrection when the Spirit comes upon them will they really open their eyes.
What is it that we are unable or unwilling to see? What truths are we not able to face up to? It is easy to look outside of ourselves and see what needs changing in the world but our blind spots make it difficult to see those very things that most need changing in our lives. Perhaps a good spiritual director or confessor can help us to “turn the plate” to ensure that we are not missing anything.
On this memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas we recall a great theologian and doctor of the Church who sought truth above all things. Let us pray through the intercession of St. Thomas that our eyes will be open to the truth that we need to see in our lives.