The Sense of Sight

June 17, 2021 by Amy Huntereece

The sense of sight is the second of the middle senses, classified as outward and senses of feeling.  These senses are helpful with interpreting the external world.

Van Gelder says, “Your eyes are your most important sensory organ. They are the only organs located visibly on your body’s surface. ‘Seeing’ is often used synonymously for ‘observing’ or ‘understanding’. Yet in actual fact, your eyes only see colours and light and dark. You can see shapes, motion and proportions because your eyes move and work together with the senses of movement and balance.

It is easier to block visual stimuli than smells or tastes. There is a distance between you and what you see and thus you observe more consciously.

Of all your senses, sight contributes most to your awareness. You are an organism with conscious thought, which is intricately involved with the act of seeing. This also means that it is easier to be mistaken about what you see than what you smell, for example. Sometimes, your thoughts determine what you see. You can experience this in the exercise, below.

What do you see? A vase or a two profiles?

The sense of sight is the most popular sense for scientific observation. Everything is expressed visually, often in numbers, because the eyes are supposed more reliable than other, ‘more primitive’ senses such as smell and taste. The eyes are considered to be objective”.

How does this relate to Unitarian Universalism and Religious Exploration?

The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism are the ideas which we affirm to “hold as strong values and moral guides.” There is also an additional 8th (proposed) principle. Paula Cole Jones was the initiator of a movement which prioritized awareness of both racial justice and deep multiculturalism in the Unitarian Universalist church. In 2013, Jones and some colleagues began to explore how UUs could address issues on a systemic level regarding racism and other oppressions. By 2017, they presented it to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and suggested that congregations adopt it as an 8th Principle. This is not officially adopted by the UUA yet, but several member congregations have chosen to adopt it independently.

I identified thirteen key concepts that appear throughout them.  These are:

Dignity

Worth

Justice

Compassion

Acceptance

Encouragement

Freedom

Conscience

Democratic process

Peace

Respect

Connectedness

Beloved Community

When we make a conscious effort to fortify the sense of sight, we will in turn be developing awareness of all of these concepts!  This is true because of the connection between our sight and our thinking.   “How do you see it?” “I see what you mean.” “Keep your eyes open…”  These are all sayings that we express linking our beliefs and understanding to our sight.  Since our conscious thoughts can directly influence how we see and then interpret situations, sight is an integral factor in how we live and move in the world.  As Unitarian Universalists, seeing through a loving lens, we strive to compliment more than judge, be positive more than negative, and see what lies inside, behind, and under a situation rather than what may be blatantly in front.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) studied color and our experience with it in the early 1800s.  You can read more about his Theory of Colors here.  He believed our perception contributed to our experiences with color.  Sounds similar to what I was saying in the last paragraph about how our UU perspective contributes to our experiences of what we see!

What can you do to fortify this sense?

“Place a coloured sheet on top of a white piece of paper. Stare at the coloured sheet for a minute, then remove it and continue staring at the white paper. What colour do you see now? What qualities would you ascribe to this colour, compared to the coloured sheet? Do this exercise for each of the colours of the rainbow and find their complementary colours, or opposites.

Painting exercise: paint something in one colour. After half an hour, see what sort of mood you are in. It is better to do this exercise with a partner: let one person do the painting while the other observes the painter.”

I also encourage you to visit this link for additional faith formation ideas related to the sense of sight. Explore the many opportunities for spiritual development for the whole family. This faith formation engagement program was developed for the Baja 4 congregational conglomerate in Southern AZ as part of my dissertation research. You are welcomed to use it as well.

The new Baja 4 Faith Formation Pilot Program: https://prezi.com/view/ygr5bkuFdPnHLCrO4C8d/

My best to you with many blessings,

Amy Huntereece, PhD

June 17, 2021

Flagstaff, AZ

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