The Heretic

April 3, 2010

The Heretic

The last person ever to be sentenced to death for heresy was a young man accused of distorting the image of God by his false teachings.

As was the custom at the time, the accused was unceremoniously imprisoned and tortured in an attempt to extract a confession and repentance. But while the accused freely gave them a confession, he refused to offer repentance in relation to the charges. Perhaps, if they had continued, the torturers would have finally forced him to repent, but they did not care, for if the judge decreed a death sentence, then the apology would be extracted by the flames.

Once the prison guards had gained a written confession, the condemned man was brought before the court in order to hear his sentence. The judge listened as various people testified to the words and images that the accused had used in explaining the ways of God. As was to be expected, the judge claimed that these teachings were misleading and could potentially lead to conflict and disagreement within the one true church. In light on this the judge decreed that this heretic must suffer death by fire in order that he might repent before passing to the other side and so escape the eternal flames of hell. Not only would this benevolent sentence bring salvation to the condemned, but also it would silence, once and for all, the false doctrines that he was teaching.

After the sentence was passed, the judge asked the heretic if he had any final words to say.

“One thing only, your honor,” he replied. “I do not dispute your sentence. Indeed, I could not, as the charges made against me are quite true. And neither will I plead for my life. But, if it would please the court, on the day of my execution I would like to choose from among the gathered crowd the one who would light the fires upon which I am to die.”

The judge thought for a moment, and then agreed to the man’s last request. It would be fitting, thought the judge, that one of the common people puts this man to death, for it was the common people whom the man led astray.

A few days later, the time came for the execution to take place. As always the stake and the bundles of sticks were prepared in the marketplace so that all the people could gather and watch the sentence being carried out. Since it was a bright morning, and the case was well known, a large crowd had gathered to watch the morning’s entertainment.

Once everything had been made ready, the heretic was led through the crowd and tied to the stake, and the bundles of sticks were heaped around him. Once the people had settled, the sentence was read aloud to the condemned man. But before the executioner could set the sticks alight, the judge, true to his word, demanded silence. He then stood before the crowd and faced the condemned man.

“On the day of your sentence you asked if it would be possible for you to choose the one who would bring you salvation through the flames. I have not forgotten this, and so it is now time for you to choose who will have this honor. The one you point to will carry out this act by my word and by my authority.”

As the young heretic’s eyes darted through the gathered crowd, people began to feel uncomfortable. A dark and foreboding fear descended among the people, for the judge would surely demand that the chosen one light the sticks, something that no one wanted on their conscience. Slowly the entire crowd went quiet, until no one stirred.

When the whole marketplace had gone silent, the condemned man gazed out into the crowd.

“I stand before you now, helpless as a child, condemned to death for heresy. I am guilty as charged, for I have held a distorted, muddied, and inaccurate view of the divine. I have only one request: that I be set alight by one among you who is innocent of this charge.”

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This is a subversive little story in a couple of ways. First, it reconfigures the story of the woman caught in adultery. Second, it takes a dig at the obsession with theological purity that is evident in so many of our church interactions. I’ll deal with both in turn.

In actuality the story of the woman caught in adultery and this story of a condemned heretic are not all that different. It would have been Pharisees who brought the woman before Jesus, and their attitude towards sin was particularly strict. As far as they were concerned, any time a person transgressed the Law of Moses they defiled the entire community and made it impossible for God to redeem Israel. In effect, any person who sinned and thus made imperfect the body of Israel was a heretic. The woman’s adultery with another man would also have been viewed as adultery with another way of being– in effect, cheating on God– and that’s not so different from the story of heresy.

So by taking the story of adultery and reconfiguring it to heresy, this story makes us feel uncomfortable about something Christians are usually pretty comfortable doing. This is a problem with a lot of Bible stories, actually. We become so familiar with the stories and the “point” of the stories that their power is lost on us. One thing that Christians tend to feel very comfortable doing is proclaiming another person’s teaching about God “false.” This is something that really gets me blood pressure up, actually, because, especially in Protestant circles, “false” teaching doesn’t just mean you’re wrong. It means you’re a heretic who’s trying to lead people away from the One True God, and you’re on the side of the Anti-Christ. That’s the implication, and it is thrown around far too casually.

In a previous post I talked about the idea that all of us are idolators, and that’s what the Heretic in this story is getting at. Every. single. one of us. gets it wrong. When it comes to God, a healthy dose of humility would be useful. So when you come up against a person who is saying things about God that seem a little… out there, don’t immediately dismiss them as a heretic, don’t call their teaching “false.” Engage with them, decide whether or not you think it is good, useful, true, and move on.

Grab Bag

April 2, 2010

Health Care Nullification?

Re: the idea of nullification as broached by some conservatives about healthcare: We fought a war with each other over this kind of stuff back in the 1800s. The outcome of that war settled, decisively, this question. States are not allowed to nullify federal law; the only chance of the health care law not being implemented is for a constitutional challenge to be upheld. Really, what that involves is convincing Justice Kennedy that your side is right. In other words it’s a total toss-up, but any question as regards healthcare is likely to be decided by a 5-4 vote either way. In all honesty, though, the best thing for conservatives to do if they don’t like this law is to do something they didn’t do while it was being written: negotiate.

I think almost everyone agrees that this law isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean that the solution is to act like it never happened, or to be obstructionist, or to try to get it repealed. The votes for repeal simply do not exist, and won’t for a long time, if ever. Once this law starts to come into effect, many of the measures will prove too popular to be repealed. So the solution, if you’re conservative and unhappy or liberal and unhappy (like me), is to work together to negotiate fixes on portions of the law that aren’t working as intended. And of course there will be portions of the law won’t work as intended; all laws have portions that don’t work. This doesn’t mean, however, that the law was a bad idea, or that it is irretrievably broken. It just means it needs fixed. Of course, on something as polarizing as healthcare, we’ll see the rhetoric of failure; don’t believe it. This is how the US legislative system works, and it works best when both sides work together despite disagreeing on a lot of things, not when one side sticks its fingers in its ears and refuses to play ball.

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A further complaint I have with this law is the poor job it does of cost control. The main elements of cost control that are still in the law are mainly ones relating to economies of scale. There are a few mandates for insurance companies to spend less money on administrative expenses and more money on actual care. The idea is that this will bring costs down, and it might. Some. The biggest savings will come from adding 32 million people to the pool of the insured. Medicare, for example, spends far less per beneficiary than most health insurers, partially because of lowered administrative costs and partially because of the economies of scale that the number of Medicare beneficiaries gives to the program. Adding both of these together should have much the same effect on private insurers.

One way that we could have figured in more cost savings was to change the payment system. It’s pretty well-known that doctors and hospitals are paid by the amount of care they give, not the quality of care. A shift to paying for outcomes would have gone a long was towards “bending the cost curve.” But any ideas of pursuing that path were lost amid cries of “rationing!”—as though your health insurer doesn’t already ration your care—and fears that the US’s position as an “innovator” would be lost.

To the first: there’s no real reason that a shift to outcome based payment should result in “rationing.” We could avoid these unfounded fears by adopting the Mayo Clinic model, which pays doctors a set salary. That option was brought up and ultimately discarded, which is disappointing to me. At any rate, what the controversy over “rationing” demonstrates is the inability of Americans to have real conversations about death. I think we are, as a country, terrified of dying. Death represents the antithesis of the American mythology, and so when someone starts talking about “end of life” care and “quality based” care rather than “quantity based” care people start to freak out and act like death isn’t something that happens to Americans. I’m reminded of a Nada Surf song, “Look alive; you see these bones? What you are now, we were once. Just like we are you’ll become.”

To the second: there’s also no real reason to suggest that a shift in philosophy of care would topple America from its position as an innovator. The current system is set up to reward people for finding new, novel ways of curing problems that no-one new existed. People are rewarded for making products, tests, and procedures just because. What the shift would necessitate is a focus on a different kind of innovation. Rather than using the best, shiniest, new medical Rube Goldberg people would be rewarded for breakthroughs in efficiency and effectiveness. That’s innovation; it just doesn’t get the same headlines that “miracle pill!” gets.

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Some people, prominently Michelle Bachman, don’t like the Census. I hate to sound like I’m picking on conservatives all the time, but most of the people who’ve been making noise about this have been just that: capital-C Conservatives. They charge that the census is unconstitutional; that the results will be politicized; that the Obama administration will use the results to spy on and marginalize them.

First, the census is blatantly constitutional. How constitutional, you ask? It is in the constitution explicitly. (Article I, Section II) Not filling out the census, then, is actually the unconstitutional act, and is in fact a federal offense. For people who are so obsessed with the Constitution you’d think they’d get this.

Second, yes, of course the results will be politicized. How? By everyone because every census is. Census results are used to determine the number of representatives a state gets to Congress, and the gain or loss of seats means that state legislatures have to redraw the district maps. This is always politicized because people want to draw the lines in such a way as to be most favorable to them. The extremes of this are gerrymandering, and both sides are guilty of it. Iowa does a pretty good job of it, I think. With our five representatives we have two that are pretty much lock Republican seats and two that are safely Democratic, with one seat (Second District) usually up for grabs. We look set to lose a seat pending the results of this census, so the redistricting will surely be contentious in Iowa.

Census information will also be used to determine where federal funding should go, and where programs should be started. That is always a political battle, but you’d think that Conservatives would realize that when the Republicans get power back (and that will happen eventually) that accurate census information would mean that they’d be able to spend money in ways that are amenable to Conservatives.

The idea that President Obama and his administration would use census information to spy on people is… laughable, really. You have more to fear from your cell phone than from the Census Bureau. Unfortunately, this kind of conspiracy theory has some traction in some circles. But you’d think that common sense would eventually seep in here. Not filling out the census form means that, for statistical purposes, you don’t exist. Meaning you don’t count when they apportion Congressional seats; meaning you don’t count when they determine where funds go; meaning you don’t count when they look at zoning and tax laws. Really, not filling in your census is worse than not voting.

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A Russian view of the Moscow Metro bombings:
I was talking to my host brother my first night in Nizhny, and Ivan said he was pretty suspicious of the bombings. It wasn’t until a few days later that any Chechen separatist movements claimed responsibility for the attacks, and we’ve seen in other terrorist attacks that groups who had nothing to do with the atrocities will take credit for the carnage. The two stops targeted were directly under Red Square and under the headquarters of the former KGB. Furthermore, Russian Police investigators came to their “Chechen Women” conclusion very quickly. Ivan’s suspicious that it may have been an inside job, engineered maybe by an oligarch who wanted the government off his back, or by the government itself in order to justify crackdowns. I personally think Occam’s Razor applies here; Chechens aren’t very happy with the Russian government, and women have been used to set off these bombs before. I think the conclusion by Russian investigators was a pretty sound one, but I think it is revealing the amount of cynicism on the ground here in Russia.

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Japan recently defeated a proposal to list Bluefin Tuna as an endangered species. Well, Japan and a few African countries that depend upon exports to Japan for their economic well-being. I think this is disgusting. Almost every single ecologist agrees that tuna is on the verge of crashing into extinction. A huge proportion of the world’s tuna ends up in Japan, and for a single country to be able to effectively wield a deciding vote on a matter of biodiversity this grave is very troubling to me. Of course the United States does this all the time, and I don’t think that’s ok, either. Tuna are a huge predator in the seas, and if we hunt and fish them to extinction it will have an enormous effect on the balance of power in the ocean.

Japan also does this with whaling. Humans hunting whales is almost as unfair as hunting moose from helicopters; there’s seriously no contest. Japan claims exemptions from the comprehensive whaling bans on scientific grounds, and every summer they kill hundreds of whales. This is another ridiculous claim. Scientists the world over to research on whales without hunting and killing them, and there’s not really a good reason why Japan should be allowed to continue doing so under their exemption.

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The biggest change I’ve noticed here in Nizhny since coming back is that it looks a little bit more run down than last year. Paint is peeling; sidewalks and steps are crumbling; the buses and trams look a little worse; the roads have more potholes. Very plainly the money is simply not there in Russia to keep things infrastructure related in good repair. Some of this is due to the recession. Most of it is a hangover from the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s recent growth (it only achieved Soviet level GDP a couple of years ago) has been down mostly to the exploitation of the country’s national resources, oil and natural gas in particular. As long as the prices of those commodities continued to go up, then things were rosy in Russia. Those prices have cratered. But all of that is pretty immaterial, because very little of that money produced by private companies in Russia is actually going to the Russian government. (There are, of course exceptions. Gazprom is controlled by the government.) This is directly due to the economic policies forced upon Russia as the Soviet Union fell.

Russia operates under free market principles that would make Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan parade in the underwear. It is truly a wild west situation, and it was even worse (there’s my bias) at the beginning of the 90s. There was an enormous amount of capital flight from the country, as the oligarchs who gained control of the formerly nationalized companies fled offshore. Under the Soviet Union the money that these corporations made stayed with the state and was reinvested in the infrastructure of the Soviet Union. Now the money leaves the country and is spent on Chelsea FC. The result has been the unraveling of Russian infrastructure and its manufacturing base. Without the state keeping things up and running everything is breaking down now.
I would never suggest that the benefits of Soviet economic policy outweighed the human toll the Soviet regime exacted. Some of the economic policies were directly responsible for millions of deaths in Ukraine, for example, and the command economy meant that resources were expended with very little eye towards efficiency and ecological impact (see: Chernobyl). I will say, though, that the transition of a highly centralized market to a privatized one was an absolute disaster for the ordinary Russian. I am, of course, not an economist, and I’m sure that the architect of Russia’s shock therapy financial reforms, Jeffrey Sachs, would still defend his choices. I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a second way.

In close proximity to Russia are the Scandinavian countries, most of which are on the verge of being socialist. They also happen to be very democratic, and very happy. Source Here It seems to me that a measured transition towards Scandinavian style economics and government might have been a better, more sustainable long-term proposition.

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So my final point deals with exactly what I was alluding to in the last bit. I had a long conversation with a friend recently about healthcare, and the government in general. My friend is a fairly conservative guy, and when finally pushed to describe my political beliefs I said, “You’re afraid of big government running your life. I understand that. My reading, and experience, over the last few years has made me much more wary of corporations and their ability to influence and control my life than I am of the government.” Of course it is possible for a government to go too far, but what we’ve got going for us in the US is a long established sense of democratic representation.

Corporations are powerful. Even McDonald’s can periodically overcome my distaste of their policies because their advertising is so pervasive and a double quarter-pounder just tastes so. damn. good. Modern corporations are responsible for fleeing expensive labor in Western countries for cheap labor in industrializing countries. There they can do everything cheaper because the regulation on them is more lax. Workers are paid a pittance and work in shocking conditions; the factories themselves belch pollution into the environment of the very people they are exploiting. All so that we can buy a $120 pair of Nikes. In this way big corporations do a double disappearing act. They steal money from the Western consumers who buy their products by refusing to employ them in anything other than retail jobs shilling for shoes/cars/clothes/whatever rather than manufacturing, and they steal money from the developing world by refusing to pay a living wage and devastating the landscape of these countries. The money made and saved goes straight to the top, enriching the already rich.

The weakening of government regulation has also meant that corporations now have even more direct influence on the very policies that regulate them. Lobbyists are incredibly powerful in the government , and that’s a direct result of the government refusing to stand up to corporations over the past thirty years. We got “too big to fail” corporations because we refused to trust bust.

The common response to these criticisms is that America wasn’t founded under “socialist” principles, but instead on the values of capitalism. I’d like to point out that Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Capitalism was a pretty new idea in the world when the US was founded, and the authors of the Constitution could not have conceived of a company with a reach so vast as to threaten to systematically ruin the entire world economy in the way that Lehman Brothers did in 2008. The world isn’t static, and it is very different from when the US was founded. Acting like this isn’t so out of misguided fidelity to “the Founders” simply ensures that corporations will continue to exploit people around the world.

I don’t even think that democracy and capitalism are necessarily compatible. Capitalism is working best right now in China, which is hardly a beacon of freedom in the world. The advantage granted by the Chinese government to corporations is that they’re essentially allowed to do whatever they want to increase their profits. It makes a degree of sense. Capitalism views people essentially as no more than dollar signs, as profit; authoritarian governments tend to see their populations in a similar way. In the West democracy and capitalism grew up together, allowing democracy to develop safeguards against the depredations of unrestricted capitalism.
To throw that away because “socialism” is bad is silly. We almost did it in the 80s. Reagan and Thatcher pursued Milton Freidman’s free-market gospel in the West and pressured governments in the industrializing world to do the same. As a result we are now treated as little more than consumptive animals, things to be exploited for profit. We’ve lost sight of the essential, intrinsic value of human life and replaced it with a dollar sign. I can’t help but think that this ends up substantially abridging our freedom of choice. As companies get bigger their systemic reach grows ever larger. When you buy a Pepsi and a pack of Fritos you’re paying the same company; your choice is an illusion. If you’re afraid of the government, remember; you can vote out your representatives. Getting enough shares to vote out a CEO or Board of Directors on a Fortune 500 company takes more money than most of us will ever have.

The Reward of a Good Life

Two brothers embraced faith together at an early age. One of the brothers took his commitment very seriously and wrestled diligently with the scriptures. When he became a man he gave up all of his worldly possessions and went to live in the poorest and most dangerous area of the city. Many of his friends deserted him, and, because of his uncompromising dedication to the oppressed he lost the one woman he truly loved, forsaking the possibility of marriage for the sake of his work.

The pain of this separation haunted him all his days. Because of the conditions in which he lived, he was frequently ill. When he died, no one was present, and only a handful of people showed up for his funeral.

In contrast, the other brother never took his faith seriously at all. As a men he became very settled, satisfied, and intellectual. He married the woman he loved, had many children, and lived in a beautiful home. As his satisfaction grew, his thoughts of God dissolved to nothing. He gave little to charity, unless it was prudent to do so for the sake of his reputation, and he paid little heed to those who suffered around him. After a long, happy, and successful life, he died in the arms of his loving wife with his children surrounding him.

In heaven God called the two brothers before him, embraced them both warmly, and to each gave an equal share of the kingdom.

As one might expect, the brother who had been faithful all his years was surprised– he had given up everything to live what turned out to be a tortuous life of hardship.

However, his surprise was a joyous one. He turned to his brother, smiled deeply, and said, “Today my joy is finally complete, for we are together again. Come, let us break bread together.” In response, his brother said nothing, but began to weep over the wasted life he had led.

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What’s fair?

When people speak of heaven and eternal rewards, they tend to couch things in the language of “justice.” What is fair reward for a person at the end of their life. Christians tend to insist that the mercy shown to them at the end of things is indeed fair, because even though they themselves are not worthy of grace, Jesus has made up the difference. But what if God is even more unfair than that? These two brothers started down the road of faith together, but parted ways part way through.

When they died and encountered each other again, instead of expressing what we may think is a just grievance, “But God, I was faithful all my life. He abandoned your ways for a life of comfort!” the faithful brother expressed relief. The long life of faith had engendered in him a love of people that was irreducible to “fairness.” There’s nothing fair about loving someone; in fact love can often be seen contravening fairness. Love is something that is not bound by ideas of justice and fairness– it is above and beyond these ideas. And if the greatest commandments are to Love God and Love people, then should it surprise us at all that a life spent trying to bring about transformation in one’s life and the world would result is a reordering of priorities?

Bonus Day

April 1, 2010

The Book of Love

There is an ancient legend that speaks of God’s struggle to guide the destiny of humanity. It is said that God had grown tired of the way that mortals constantly lost their way, creating disasters as they go. So he sent out his angelic messengers to gather together the timeless wisdom contained in the world and to place this wisdom into a multitude of books that would be housed in a great library– a library that mortals could use in order to work out how they should live and act in the world.

When, after many millennia, the great task was completed, the colossal library stood proudly in one of the world’s great cultural capitals, dominating the skyline. However, this huge building contained too many books for any individual to read. It was all but impossible to reach for the majority of people, and the library’s sheer size was enough to put anyone off even entering it. So God demanded that his couriers compressed the essential wisdom into a single, encyclopedic book.

Once completed, this single work was widely circulated, but the manuscript was so huge that one could hardly life it, let alone read it or put what it said into practice. So yet again God put his couriers to work, crafting a booklet with all the essential information. But the people were lazy and there were many who could not read, so the booklet was refined into a single word, and that word was sent out on the lips and life of a messenger.

And the word?

It was love.

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What I’m most interested in here is the trickiness of language. This is a particular hobby-horse of mine, as most everyone who’s been reading this since I started will know.

This single word, love, is the perfect embodiment of everything I’ve been trying to say about language. I’ve come to believe that words, language, are pretty much rorschach tests. Our reaction to words says a lot about us; the things we value, the things we believe, the things we’re willing to argue for or against. Your reaction to this parable, particularly the clincher will reveal a lot about the way you think about love and the implications– Christian and not– thereof.

What the parable does is very cleverly demonstrate the multiplicity of meaning within language, the vast amount of conceptual space that even a simple word like “love” can take up. Just as the wisdom of the sages could be condensed down into the single word of love, so love can be expanded back out into the wisdom and the writings that could fill the most complete library known. There is much contained in this word, this greatest of commandments. It is a double edged sword; we have to be careful not to be too reductive. There are many things love is, but there are equally many things that love is not and it is easy to miss the mark. On the other side, we have to be careful not to get too bogged down in our definitions that we miss the essential simplicity of being told to love each other.

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A Miracle without Miracle

After Jesus had descended from the Mount of Olives he came across a man who had been blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he cannot see?”

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must carry out the works of him who sent me while it is day, for night is approaching, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “My friend, go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So the man went and washed and returned in jubilation, shouting, “I can see! I can see!”

The neighbors and those who knew him as a beggar began to grumble, saying, “Has this man lost his mind? for he was born blind.” Some said, “It is the same man who was blind.” Others said, “No, it is not, but he is like him.” In response to this grumbling, the old man kept repeating, “I am the same man. Jesus anointed my eyes and said, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see everything.”

To ascertain what had happened, they brought him to the Pharisees. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know that this man Jesus is a sinner.” But the old man answered, “Whether or not he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

But the Pharisees began to laugh. “Old man, meeting Jesus has caused you to lose your mind. You had to be carried into this room by friends, you still stumble and fall like a fool. You are blind today as the day you were born.”

“That may be true,” replied the old man with a long, deep smile, “as I have told you before. All I know is that yesterday I was blind, but today, today I can see.”

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These last few parables have been focussing on the transformative nature of the Christian faith; namely, what faith is there if the person has not been transformed and how should we expect to see this transformation manifest itself? Here we see one of the miracles Jesus works in the Gospels reconfigured. This healing is not apparently any less miraculous for the fact that the man has not, in fact, had his physical vision restored.

This isn’t to pour water on the idea that the man in the Gospel story was able to see the color of flowers– indeed that he was able to see flowers at all– for the first time. What it does is push us to consider the meaning behind the meaning in Jesus’ healing. If the man hadn’t, in fact, had his vision restored, what would his declaration of sight have meant? If we probe into the symbolism of the healing a little bit further we might be able to glean a bit more understanding.

Most of the miraculous healings Jesus performed had serious symbolic implications for the people he was talking to. The cripple, the leper, and the blind man all represented Israel in the symbolic shorthand of the day; this is the kind of stuff alluded to in the writings of the prophets. So when Jesus goes about healing people with these specific ailments he’s making implicit statements about his nature and what he has come to do on earth. That’s why it is so important to see the symbol, but to look beyond the symbol to see what it signifies. This is very much the idea behind icons in the Orthodox church. A person venerating an icon isn’t worshipping the icon itself, but is using the icon as a symbol to orient themselves around the thing the icon represents. So the healing here is an icon; a symbol of Jesus’ work, of the Kingdom of Heaven.

If it isn’t a physical healing, then what kind of healing is this? We can see the answer revealed in the answers of the old man to the Pharisees: “I was blind, but today I see.” An encounter with Jesus becomes the light by which all other light is compared, the light which allows a person to truly see. This encounter– the love we spoke of in the last parable– then become the lens, the light, through which the rest of the world is viewed. I once heard evangelism described as a myopic telling a blind person where the optometrist is. None of us has perfect vision; in this sense we are the still-blind man who can see. “Now we see as through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face.” What the encounter with Jesus does is allow a person to see through world through divine eyes, and to begin looking for ways to help other people see the world through these same eyes.