Tag Archives: Deepak Chopra

“Ways of Seeing” by John Berger

Vision is subtle and frequently we “have eyes to see but see not” and, yes, ” ears to hear but hear not.”  And it is very challenging to realize that human nature subjects us to this limitation yet without meaning, necessarily, that we are a bad person.  But if we never let the wisdom of this quip from Jesus sink in it can lead to a lot of “bad” that will emanate from the resulting unexamined life.

Relevant to this subject, John Berger wrote a classic little book in 1972 entitled, “Ways of Seeing.”  When I discovered the book 25 years ago it grabbed me immediately even though it was written to artists by an art critic and I am far removed from either.  But at that time in my life I was very familiar with the ambiguity of life, including “ways of seeing” and readily grasped the wisdom from the eye of this art critic. Berger pointed out that seeing ultimately is not so much a deed as it is an experience as an evocation as we focus on an object and allow that object to evoke from the depths of our heart a meaningful experience.  Each of us have these interior depths though so often circumstances have confined us to the surface of life where we scurry about our three-score and ten without ever daring to venture into the deep places of the heart that hide the mystery of life.  Venturing there will force us to encounter the significance of the teaching the aforementioned teaching of Jesus about having vision and using it not.

Here are the opening words of Berger’s brilliant book:

Seeing comes before words.  The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.  But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words.  It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it.  The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.  Each evening we see the sun set.  We know that the earth is turning away from it.  Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

 Berger realized the simple truth that object-relations theory teaches us in the field of psychology:  there is a gap between the subject and object, between the sense-perceiver and the perceived.  This is the “gap” that Deepak Chopra has made famous and therein lies the mystery of life.


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Boundaries and “I and Thou”

On Friday a man in New York City demonstrated his belief that we are one with nature by jumping into a lion pit, explaining afterward that he wanted to be “one with the lions.” Well, he almost accomplished this purpose as one of them proceeded to chew on him.

I also feel that boundaries are a nebulous construction and that we do need to realize that we are one with the world, with the animal world, physical world, and the human world. But we must never carry it to the extreme that he did and will do so only at our great peril.

One dimension of this “object separateness” issue is drawing the social distinction between “me and thee.” Where do I end and you begin? If I err on either extreme there will be major psychopathology. In the early months of our lives we begin the process of formulating a “me” (and ego identity) and if this task is impaired, our life will be very challenging. But if our “me” is defined too rigidly, it will also pose problems. Ideally, it will have an age-appropriate rigidity at first, a rigidity which can be relaxed with maturity so that our “me” can recognize that the distinction between “me and thee” is not as rigid as the social contract would have one believe.

Martin Buber wrote a marvelous book about the process of discovering this boundary subtlety—I and Thou. He also delved into the spiritual nature of the process of making this discovery and the spiritual nature of life itself. Our Source, he suggested, is found only in the “In-Between”, in that space between “I” and “Thou”, in what Deepak Chopra terms “the gap.”

Here is a marvelous poem by Edgar Simmons about this matter:


the instant you can

accept the colon

you are christenened

in the right compromise

that no things are alike

but are related.

the greatest

the necessary

the most powerful leap of metaphor

is when I decide

I am you

the result is

a birth


metaphysical differentiation

carried out and on

not in flesh but in spirit–

prophetic fact in time

more than children of our flesh.

homo sapiens sapiens

Consciousness is the subtle and all-embracing mystery within and between Everything. It is like the air we breathe, take for granted, and do not appreciate. Consciousness is not the seeing but that which sees me seeing. You must step back from your compulsiveness, and your attachment to yourself, to be truly conscious. Consciousness cannot be “just me” because it can watch “me” from a distance.”  (Richard Rohr)

Rohr’s comment reminds me of a phrase that a friend recently introduced to me—“homo sapiens sapiens” or “man knows that he knows”.  We all “know” but it is possible for us to “know that we know” and immediately we have went “meta”.  That means we have developed a conscious awareness of our “awareness”.   Someone once said, and I think it was the philosopher Ricoeur , “We cannot have a perspective on our perspective without somehow escaping it.”

This meta-cognition is important as it introduced a “gap” (see Deepak Chopra) into our reality.  It gives us pause.  And, in that pause we have an opportunity to realize that there might be another way of looking at the world.

Political version of “us vs. them”


The same tendency to bifurcate reality discussed yesterday can be seen in our political process.  We are currently watching our government stew in its own juices basically because each party is locked into a battle of wills, each locked tightly into “Democrat” or “Republican” loyalties.  AND, I am a Democrat and I will continue to be.  The Democrats best articulate my perspective on the world, not just politically but also culturally.  But, Democrats are not “right”.   They merely offer one perspective in the world and I happen to subscribe to it.  That does not make the Republicans “wrong.”  We must have, to use different terms for a moment, liberals and conservatives.  Without these two philosophies working in tandem, we will get into a lot of trouble.

The core issue here is identity.  Our task is to put our “reality” on hold for a moment here and there, to pause briefly, and to recognize that that there are people who look at things differently.  We must not be trapped in our various categories—-spiritually, politically, or even sexually.  Our task is to recognize once again, that we see “only the small bright circle of our consciousness beyond which lies the darkness.” (Conrad Aiken).  For, those that lie in “darkness” have a reality of their own and that reality deserves a modicum of respect.  What is “darkness” to us, is “light” to them.

And, I could easily trash Republicans here.  But I’m saving that for another day.  Yes, they have their issue with nut-jobs on the far right.  I’m sure Republicans would respond with, “Well, yes, but what about your own party’s nut jobs?”  Well, I’m sure there are extremists on my side of the political aisle but naturally I have a more difficult problem in identifying who they are.

Ultimately, I must remember, to borrow a refrain from an earlier post, and recognize that each day I awaken and announce to the world, “Wind me up and watch me be Democrat today.”  BUT, having this belief does give me pause and in that pause I can try to give other perspectives that “modicum of respect” mentioned earlier.   I do believe that Democrats are more likely to be willing to enter that “pause”.  It is not unrelated to what Deepak Chopra describes as “the gap”


I and Thou

Martin Buber’s I and Thou is one of the pivotal books in my life.  I think it is one of the finest works in spiritual literature of the 20th century.  This book is about relationship and the infinite grace which is involved in establishing relationship, establishing connection with another person.  Buber writes of the “in-between”, what Deepak Chopra would call “the gap” which separates us all.  And, actually this “gap” separates us from all objects/persons in the world.  To have meaningful communication…or connection…with another human being, we must experience this “in-between” which always comes to our ego consciousness as a loss.  (I personally think that this experience is what “the judgment of god” is in Christian literature and tradition).  It is knowing our aloneness, our alienation from the rest of God’s creation.

Buber also apparently believed that animals have a soul, noting that this can be experienced when one gazes into the eyes of an animal.  I have two dachshunds and I can affirm this conviction.  Those beautiful little doggie eyes convey mystery and love, suggesting the presence of another soul.  Buber credits the animal with anxiety, the anxiety of becoming, “the stirring of the creature between realms of plantlike security and spiritual risk.  This language is the stammering of nature under the initial grasp of spirit, before language yields to spirit’s cosmic risk which we call man.”

If I was more mature spiritually, I would become a vegetarian.  Any time I drive behind a Tyson chicken truck, I feel the need to take that leap of faith.  But, I don’t think I’m going to pull that off in this lifetime.