…As Those Who Will Not See

There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

According to the ‘Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings’ this proverb has been traced back to 1546 (John Heywood), and resembles the Biblical verse Jeremiah 5:21 (‘Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not’). In 1738 it was used by Jonathan Swift in his ‘Polite Conversation’ and is first attested in the United States in the 1713 ‘Works of Thomas Chalkley’. The full saying is: ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know’

<I got this from http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/abditorium/nonesoblind.htm>

I like the saying, and the reference to Jeremiah 5:21. But I do have an issue with the “full saying”:  “There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.” I don’t really see this as particularly accurate.

Most commonly, the problem is NOT ignoring what they “already know.” The most common problem and most unfortunate blindness is seeing ONLY what one “already knows.”

I have mentioned before Douglas Adam’s “SEP Field” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. How does one land a big alien space ship on a planet without it causing a big ruckus? Surround it with an SEP (somebody else’s problem) field. So one actually sees it, but it does not really register with the brain because one believes that it is “somebody else’s problem.” We tend to notice things that we think are our own problems. We tend to ignore (are functionally blind to) what we believe is not our problem.

Likewise, we are often functionally blind to what challenges our deeply held beliefs. In fact, everyone does this at times. It is human nature in some ways. Our minds were created to recognize patterns and utilize these patterns to make sense of the world. When we see things that tear apart those patterns, our minds resist this by filtering out the discordant data.

This is a challenge in missions, because we are dealing with different cultures and worldviews. A worldview can be pictured as a pair of glasses. The glasses filter, distort and shade the sensory inputs of the outside world. Worldview provides the paradigm of interconnected patterns for guiding behavior and interpreting (or making sense of) reality. Worldview makes us focus clearly on images that are congruent with our worldview. However, things that don’t fit are filtered out or distorted. Ultimately, we are functionally blind to what challenges are paradigms with regard to reality.

A reason for missionaries to study cultural anthropology is not primarily to learn about endogamy versus exogamy, patrilineal vesus matrilineal systems, or bands versus tribes versus nation states. Rather, it opens a new way of seeing the world… through being a participant observer… and incarnational agent of both change and preservation.

Missionaries must be able to try different glasses on, not just the one they picked up in their home culture. A Christian missionary is still a Christian… the calling defines a certain paradigm. Yet our culture is another set of glasses that can blind us to understanding and interacting with another culture.

For me, the full version of the saying should be:

‘There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to only see what they already think they know’