The Blinkered Eye, The Deafened Ear

Last year, 1806, one of the Osages, then in Washington for the first time, was taken to see the frigates and gun boats in the Eastern branch – when the Captain of the Port made every shew he could in order to astound him, but all in vain: he was even taken to the gun boat in which the cannon is discharged by pulling a string and without letting him know what was to happen, the string was put in his hand and he was told to pull it, he did so and altho’ the sudden sound, one might have supposed, would have startled him, he did not move a muscle –
Sir Augustus J Foster, 1807

Cruel as this is, this story is not an uncommon one. This Osage man (Osage meaning ‘People of the Middle Waters’) could have been from anywhere from what is now Ohio all the way to Nebraska. I don’t know why this Osage man was dragged there – to sign something? To perform? To petition? I’m not sure but this account is not a solitary one. For some reason incurring militaries liked to try to “jokingly” frighten native people with gunshots or cannon fire. Crowds would often be disturbed but again and again individuals wouldn’t be shaken.

There is also an account of the famed “wild boy” who was found in the forest in southern France in 1799 who was thought to be deaf when he didn’t respond to a door being slammed. But he was found at another time listening to the sound of mouse skittering through the dry leaves.

It seems to be the case that the capacity to respond arises only to what is recognizable to that person. How much stays invisible to our western and literate eye? How much do our eyes get shuttered on purpose? It is no wonder that so many people blanche when they discover where their meat or clothing or computers come from and the silenced costs to them. Those things were never meant to be seen.

But similarly how often is the eye blinkered to the thousand shades of green of the grass? And how often is the ear deafened to the hooting and clicking or cawing of…that bird?

How might it be if the dry tinder of your wondering had a tiny flame touched to it so that the tender little light could be lifted towards that which you know you haven’t been looking? Not to get a roaring flame and suddenly shove it into a dark corner and suddenly illuminate it to a crisp. No. A small light, a small light so that your eye might just start to see some new shapes. The kind of shapes that arise across a dying campfire after a long night of storytelling – dim but inviting.

I have many prayers for you who is reading this presently. But one of those prayers is that these weekly missives to you are little bundles of encouragement to know a bit more of the beauty making in the world and made by the world. And not the kind of beauty that is simply ornamentation but the kind of beauty making that turns the corners of your belly up. Get shaken a bit.

And if you don’t know what it might be like to smile in and from your belly…consider that another thing to wonder about.

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