I want to picture this in your mind: a blindfolded man, living in a house he never saw before. The man doesn’t even know he’s blindfolded. He lived his entire life like this.
Try to picture this image very accurately: the blindfold across his head, his slow, hesitant movements, his pauses, everything. But, most of all, try to picture the hits he takes at virtually every corner, every table he didn’t see, every ladder he falls onto.
Got it? Ok.
Now, I want you to switch places with that man. Literally, switch your current place, as you sit right now in front of the computer, or staring at your tiny smartphone while you read this, and try to feel what that man feels. Try to understand how he moves. Try to make an idea about how he makes an idea about his world. Try to understand how it is to live blindfolded, in a house you never saw before, because you’ve been blindfolded for your entire life.
Pretty uncomfortable, huh?
Now, get back to your world, and try to picture, in the same house, a person who can actually see. A person who can, in an instant, recognize all the shapes and colors around and move safely from one place to another. A “normal” person, that is.
How the two persons will interact? How the person who can’t see will understand the person who sees? And how can the “seer” make the blindfolded to understand what it is to be blindfolded in the first place? How can he put into his minds concepts like colors and nuances and shapes and opacity and transparence? If you lived all your life in the dark, how can you understand light? And, once you saw the light, how can you explain it to someone who never saw it before?
What follows is my attempt to find the answer to these questions.
So, How Do You Know You’re Blindfolded?
It hurts. That’s the main sign. It seems like the world is rushing towards you and you can’t see anything until the last moment, the moment before you’re hit. And when you’re hit, it hurts big time. You hit a wall, or you fall down a stair, or you cut yourself through the glass of a window. Because you can’t see. You keep moving forward in a pitch dark territory, not knowing what’s in front of you, or what’s on the left, or what’s on the right. And you hit all sort of obstacles.
Sometimes the symptom for your blindness is that other people “hit” you. You feel the interaction, you take the hit, but you don’t know the reasons. All you know is that you’re hit. And it hurts.
And sometimes you hit and hurt other people. You stumble upon them, because they were “blocking” your way and you try to get over them and, in this process, because you don’t actually see them, you hit them and you hurt them.
I’m pretty sure by now you understood what I’m talking about.
That’s how we live. That’s how we perceive reality. That’s how we advance in this life. Blindfolded.
The tiny bit that we think we know about our reality, we know it based on a very limited interaction. Namely, from the hits we take. Like being broke. Or ill. Or alone.
We may learn a bit from the hits we took (or we may not, and hit them again and again) but just a bit. For instance, we may internalize that somewhere in that house we had an accident and we will do our best to avoid that place, in the future. If we remember the place, of course. Or we may create a representation of that hurtful situation putting together our other senses (like sound and smell and touch) and, when that specific combinations reoccurs, we try to bounce back. Usually, it’s too late. And we still get the hit.
Whatever mental representations we may have about reality, they’ll be weak. Because they are representations only. They’re not reality itself. We don’t see the actual root causes, we’re just experiencing the effects, in the dark.
How Do You Deal With The Blindfold?
So, we know we’re blindfolded. But how can we deal with this? Just being aware of something bad doesn’t necessarily stops it. Here are the first reactions we have when we start to understand how bad the situation is.
The first instinct is to stop. To stop moving and to live in a stale. Because you’ve been hurt so many times, you’re now avoiding everything. That’s what a lot of people are doing by clinging to the comfort zone, being it a 9 to 5 job, or just emotional numbness. Don’t do anything to move forward. Because it will hurt. Stay there. Where it’s safe. And, for a while, it’s safe. But the thing is, the world never stops. Even if you stay put, other blindfolded people are stumbling upon you. You see, there are some folks still moving, and just because you stopped, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
Another way is to learn the paths. This way you learn where the walls are, where the doors and the windows and the stairs and you start to create a mental path, a mental representation of what it is around you. It’s still not the territory, but the map. It’s not the same thing with seeing, because if you see, you can actually spot any new additions to the landscape for instance (if there were any, since your last visit) or you can see if there are people there (you can’t remember moving objects, because, well, they’re moving). But still, a map is better than nothing. You can at least express some preferences. You remember which parts of the building are cold and putrid and which parts are cosy and nice smelling. And you can move from one part to another, if things deteriorate somehow.
But, as more and more people will start to create these mental representations, the nice spots will get crowded really fast. And the bad spots will be deserted. People will start to compete for the nice places. And soon you will start to have other problems than managing the space. Namely, managing the people.
Translating all this imagery into “real life”, here’s how it looks: from a certain point onward, you will know how to make a living. You will be able to walk around life without feeling the hurt of “not having money”, for instance. Or “not being tremendously ill”. Or “having at least a companion, if not a fully fledged relationship”.
You will be able to take care of your own needs and you will know this area of the map quite well.
But just because that part of the map is well known now, it doesn’t mean you’ll be ok. Even if you can manage the territory, the people will keep moving. Especially the blindfolded ones. They will keep rushing towards you.
Some of them may remember your smell, your touch, or some other part of the surroundings they attached to you and they will want to get in touch (literally) again. So, even if you’re not blindfolded anymore, those people will still come to you, because they will somehow remember that “location” on their internal map.
Many of them will want just a little bit of comfort. Will want to get in touch with you to alleviate their suffering. To find an oasis of comfort in this pitch dark world they’re drifting in. You know all that mumbo jumbo stuff about soul mates and stuff? Well, it’s coming from this. Soul mates are people we encountered in our blindfolded trips and with whom, for whatever reasons, we interacted more.
Sometimes we had some gentle touches and that’s the type of soul mates we cherish for, the type that you read about in pink-covered books.
With others we may had some territorial fights: “this is my square meter of the building, you idiot, whoever you are, that’s my spot and I’m not living”. And then you start to blindly fight until one of you decides he can’t hold it anymore and leave, or simply can’t remember where is the opponent, or whatever. But you remember those fights and those places. And you keep coming back to them, because there’s some unfinished business there. These are the types of soul mates we call “karmic debts”. We have something to settle with them. Maybe, as time went by, we removed our blindfold and we’re free from that attachment, but they’re not free from us. So we need to cut that knot, somehow.
So, just because you know the map, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. It’s just a map and the territory that the map describes can (and will) change every second.
Of course, the best way to deal with this is to remove the blindfold entirely.
The problem is, you don’t know you’re blindfolded.
How To Remove A Blindfold You Don’t Know You Have
Let’s start by being honest here: I won’t claim that I completely removed my blindfold. I am aware of the fact that I’m still wandering around and there are still many parts of the map that are unknown to me (not to mention the territory).
But there are also things that I am able to “see” right now. Especially when it comes to other people. I’ve been hurt so many times with this type of interaction, that, in time, I created a few holes in this blindfold. I’m not seeing through completely, I cannot say from the very beginning that if I interact with a person I will have a pleasant interaction or not. But at least I’ll know if that person is blindfolded or not. And that’s very, very important for both of us.
As a matter of fact, that’s how I discovered I’m blindfolded myself. Through countless of painful interactions with other people. Some of these interactions were deep and long lasting, some were shallow and short. But all of them seemed outside my control. All of them seemed to happen in a random, uncontrolled way, and all had the same result: pain. Even if, for a while, the interaction was fun, at the end of it something bad happened. I felt deceived, for instance. Or the other person told me that I was deceiving. Or simply the fact that the relationship ended left me in a state of sadness. It was chaos. I felt like a tiny boat in the middle of a storm. Powerless.
So, it wasn’t until I realized I keep bumping into the same type of people that I told to myself there might be something more to the world. There must be un underlying texture of these paths I’m walking, it must be some unseen, secret maze that I’m navigating, a maze constantly spitting me out in the same room. Statistically speaking, I can’t make the same mistake over and over again, it’s impossible.
So, I realized it was me. It wasn’t them. It was coming from me. I was literally searching for the same and same persons. It wasn’t chaos, it was choice. My choice.
Because those persons were the only ones that I knew how to handle. Or how to be handled by. Those persons were recognizable.
And then it hit me: it’s not like those persons existed by themselves. I created them, after each interaction. I created a representation of those persons, based on my interaction with them, and now I was selecting them form the infinite number of the persons out there. I was literally picking only the ones that I could actually identify. The ones that were fitting my mental representation. It was scary. For a while, I was in denial.
But then, as I was slowly starting to see more and more patterns, I had no other choice but to recognize that I had a problem. Or, in other words, a blindfold. Something that was keeping me from seeing the people as they were. I understood that there were countless of other persons with whom I can interact out there. But, because my mental representations acted like a filter, I simply ignored them. Maybe I was passing by a person right now. Maybe I could have a great interaction with that person, the type of interaction that couldn’t end in pain. But I couldn’t see that person.
And that’s when the verb “to see” came out. That’s when I realized I wasn’t seeing right. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t seeing at all.
From that moment on, I ditched everything I knew about people, everything I created in my mind and strived to see them as they really were. It wasn’t easy. As I already told you, it still isn’t easy and I still can’t see them all. But some of them I can see pretty clear.
So, how do you do it? How do you start to see, if you’re blindfolded?
First step: acknowledge that you’re blindfolded. Accept it. It means you have to get rid of the maps you have in your head. And it’s incredibly hard to do this. It’s like you’re navigating a boat in the middle of the ocean and somebody will come to you and say: “I will give you a top notch radar, something that will make you see not only where you go, but also under the vessel as well. But, you’ll have to get rid of your compass. It will interfere with the radar. Throw it away”. And you know that for years, you navigated using only a compass. And now somebody – or even, worse, not somebody, but you, yourself – comes and tells you you have to get rid of that compass. It’s the hardest part.
Second step: don’t react. Act. Just because you realized you’re blindfolded, it doesn’t mean all the people around you are realizing that as well. Nope. They will continue their random, brownian movement and, every once in a while, one of them will hit you again. Don’t react. Know that the person is blind. Just do nothing. If you do noting, if you don’t react, the other person won’t have the proof that he interacted with you. That’s very important. That’s fundamental, by the way. People are creating their maps by using this feedback. If you don’t act back, they will take you for an inanimate object. They won’t continue to interact with you as with a human being. They’ll take you for a wall, or a table or a stair. So, don’t react. If you want to do something, wait for a while. Initiate something yourself. But don’t react. It’s fundamental.
Third step: be patient. The blindfold is tightly impregnated in your own skin. It will take a while to tear apart. But, as long as you’re patient and as long as you’re accepting you’re wearing a blindfold, as long as you trust yourself, it will start to fall down. Slowly, shadows of light will appear, small shapes, maybe colors. You will start to acknowledge the presence of other people not by the amount of pain you get form them, but differently. You will see them coming towards you. You will see their hesitant moves, you will see them hitting the walls, falling down the stairs.
You will not recognize them by applying some mental filters. You will just look at them, be aware of their presence and acknowledge them. Some of them – most of them – will still be blindfolded. You will acknowledge their hesitant moves and the hits they take at every corner.
But some will be not. You will see that those who are not blindfolded are moving gently, are not hurting people, and are not hurting themselves. That’s how you realize you’re seeing now. Because you become aware of the fact that some people stopped their suffering.
How Do You Know You’re Not Blindfolded Anymore
I told you I’m not there yet, but now I know it’s possible. I know that, at some point, you will get rid of the blindfold entirely. But how can you be sure you’re not just deluding yourself? How do you know it’s the territory and not the map?
Well, the first symptom is that the suffering becomes optional.
In other words, you’re not hurting yourself anymore by hitting the rough parts of the building (or jumping towards other people). Yes, the possibility that you will hit some rough spots, or engaging in some toxic relationships is still there, but now you have a choice, because now you see. It’s right in front of you. You can choose to hit that wall or you can choose to avoid it. And, in the beginning, as surprisingly as it may seem, you may choose to hit that wall, even if you see it, just because you’re so attached to the feeling.
But as you start to learn the building, as you start to understand where a wall starts and where a wall ends, where are the doors, where is the ceiling and where are the windows, as you start to see the people who are not blindfolded anymore, moving around gently, in a hypnotic dance, you will become less and less interested in that familiar feeling of hurt. And more interested in just enjoying the walk. You know, for such a long time you identified your life with pain that now it’s hard to untie those ties. It’s hard to internalize the fact that life doesn’t have to hurt at all.
Another symptom that you’re not blindfolded anymore could be that now you can avoid other blindfolded people. You start to see them when they rush towards you. And you can gently get out of their way. You will avoid the suffering simply by choosing to avoid them altogether and that will certainly relieve you from a significant amount of pain. But, the trick is, until they’ll be free from their blindfold too, they’ll keep haunting you. They’ll be terrified by your absence and they’ll keep searching for you. So just because you’re off the hook, it doesn’t mean the suffering is completely over. It’s tricky. You must help them too. There is no other way, because, as long as they’ll be blindfolded, they’ll keep rushing towards you, over and over and over.
As I already said, this seeing isn’t always happening in one explosive epiphany. Most of the time it happens over a long period of time. For a while, our internal map is superimposed over the real world and we just start to glimpse some fuzzy details underneath it. We see just patches of reality. The blindfold is not suddenly removed, but it goes down in patches, one by one.
You know, when you finally understand that you are blindfolded, and you shift your focus from the things you stumble upon by ignorance, or people you hurt just the same, when you shift from that world of illusions to your own blindfold, the blindfold becomes thinner and thinner. The more you focus on it, the thinner it gets. And, in the end, you realize you’re no longer blindfolded.
And yet the most credible, the most important symptom that you’re seeing now is the fact that you’re not only avoiding the building.
You’re actually building whatever you want to build.