“How to Use Your Eyes”

The other day I heard a story from the life of Helen Keller that I had never heard before.

In it, she recalls asking a friend who had returned from a walk in the woods what this friend had seen. The friend replied, “Nothing in particular.” Helen was dumbfounded and wondered, “How is it possible to walk for an hour and see nothing worthy of note?”

This anecdote whet my appetite and I had to look for these insights of hers in context. To my delight, I found them contained within her extraordinary short essay titled, “Three Days to See.”

Here it is:

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Start wondering now

This evening a dear friend and I reunited in Toronto and spontaneously decided to attend Vespers at St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church.

The evening prayer and raising of incense was set to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Aside from the priest, two young men chanting liturgical responses, and one woman from the community, my friend and I were the only ones there.

Before beginning vespers, Fr. John Boutros came over to give us a brief explanation of the prayer.

“The purpose of vespers is start wondering now: where has my life gone? It’s a journey toward reconciliation in preparation for the liturgy the following day. Accordingly, people will usually go to confession after Vespers and during the Midnight Praises on the vigil of the Divine Liturgy. As the sun sets, you are invited to ponder: What am I doing? Where did the light go? Where did my life go?”

Fr. John also gave the analogy of working on a paper or a project into the late hours of the night saying, “When you’re working late at night, you can lose sense of the time. The purpose of these evening liturgies is partly to enter into the timelessness of eternity.”

This is the structure of Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Church:

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At the End of Life, the Artist is Necessary

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “clinical” may denote “expressing no emotion or feelings” or “showing no character and warmth.” The sentence that is given to illustrate its meaning is this: “We were going to paint our kitchen white, but we decided that would look too clinical.”

Do you ever wonder why hospitals and doctor’s offices are so drab? Why does there seem to be so little attention paid to aesthetics? What impact does this have on doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors?

One day, Cecily Saunders, the British pioneer of modern-day hospice care, was “magnetically drawn” to an oil painting in a gallery window. She was so taken by it that she parked her car and entered the gallery moments before they were closing on the last day of the exhibition. Cecily Saunders moved eagerly from painting to painting. The blue Crucifixion had been the piece to catch her eye from the window, but the piece she impulsively chose to purchase was of ‘Christ Calming the Waters.’

The following day, she wrote the following to the artist, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko:

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Those best prepared for death

The other day, Fr. Mike Schmitz released this video, “The Key to a Happy Death” in which he shares that a student recently asked him, “In your experience, have you found that people who live a long and fulfilling life are more prepared, or better prepared to dieā€“that they’re able to let go of their life more easily?”

And to this, he answered no.

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Does your education fix your mind on eternal life?

In the chapter on Hope in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discusses the paradox that “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

I certainly observed this during my studies and travels throughout Europe during which I was continually struck that the most beautiful art and architecture was made by people who believed in the immortality of the soul whereas materialists always seemed to produce the most ugly and bland structures and stuff.

There is something about looking forward longingly to the world to come that makes us more effective in this world than we could possibly be otherwise.

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