Learning to See

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

Removing the excess

Once someone asked the sculptor Michelangelo how he created such magnificent works.

“It’s very simple,” replied Michelangelo. “When I look at a block of marble, I see the sculpture inside. All I have to do then is to remove the outer covering.”

The invisible face

An emperor said to the Rabbi Yeoschoua ben Hanania:

“I would very much like to see your God.”

“That is impossible,” said the Rabbi.

“Impossible? Then how can I entrust my life to someone whom I cannot see?”

“Show me the pocket in which you have placed the love of your wife, and let me weigh it in order to see how large her love is.”

“Don’t be silly; no one can keep someone’s love in their pocket.”

“The sun is only one of the works which the Lord placed in the universe and yet you cannot look at it directly. You cannot see love either, but you know you are capable of falling in love with a woman and entrusting your life to her. Is it not clear then that there are certain things in which we trust even though we cannot see them?”

Looking at the inside
“When you stand in front of your companion, try to see yourself,” said the Japanese teacher Okakura Kakuso.

“But isn’t that an awfully selfish attitude?” asked a disciple. “If we are always concerned about ourselves, we will never see the good things that others have to offer.”

“If only we did always see the good things around us,” replied Kakuso. “But the truth is that when we look at another person, we are only looking for defects. We try to discover his wicked side because we want him to be worse than us. We never forgive him when he hurts us because we do not believe that we would ever be forgiven by him. We manage to wound him with harsh words, declaring that we are telling the truth, when all we are doing is trying to hide it from ourselves. We pretend that we are important so that no one else will see how fragile we are. That is why whenever you judge your brother, you must be aware that it is you who are on trial.”

Face to face with danger

The disciple said to his teacher:

“I have spent a large part of my day seeing things I should not see, desiring things I should not desire and making plans I should not make.”

The teacher invited his disciple to go for a walk with him. On the way, he pointed to a plant and asked if the disciple knew what it was.

“It’s deadly nightshade. The leaves can kill you if you eat them.”

“But they cannot kill you if you just look at them. In exactly the same way, negative desires are entirely harmless unless you give in to them.”

© Translated by James Mulholland


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