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Image removed.Life is about learning to see what we’re looking at—if we actually see it at all.

It takes a while, but eventually, the really perceptive soul discovers that there are actually five ways of seeing as we go through life.

At the first level of insight, we see only what’s in front of us.  The immediate becomes the center of the world.  We do not see beyond ourselves because we have drawn the circle of life too small, too close, too narrowly.  The older next-door neighbor, the colleague with the sick child, the friend whose life is careening off the tracks are part of my consciousness—but not part of my heart. Their agendas do not compel me to action.  Their lives do not really touch mine.

At the second level of insight, we see only the obvious, not what drives the obvious. Not what’s under the obvious.  We come to see that the other has the same feelings we do and that, like ours, they need to be heeded.  We see more of the world suddenly, but find it as lonely and confused as our own.

At the third level of insight, we see a broader world, but only from our own perspective.  Everyone should live in a democracy, we decide.  The whole world would be better off if everyone were like us.  We are the acme of the universe, we know.  Then, all of our efforts go into making the rest of the world like us.  Except that never happens and we cannot for the life of us figure out why.

At the fourth level of insight, we see a changing canvas and realize suddenly that nothing is stable, all things are in flux.  The question, of course, is whether we realize that we, too, are in the process of change now—because we have seen that nowhere does life stand still.

At the fifth level of insight, we learn to truly see beyond the center of the self and find that we are all alike, all trying to find one another, all wishing to be human together.

At that point, of course, we see our differences and find that they are beautiful—and see our likenesses and discover that they are the stuff of our growth.  We do not need to be anyone else now.  Instead, we can be everyone else now, understanding them, learning from them—trusting that I can change and become even more myself at the same time.

The question, of course, is, at what level of insight are we now?  What will it take to grow beyond ourselves and discover the rest of life?

  ––from Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life by Joan Chittister (BlueBridge)