Archive for February, 2010

Blind loving

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Both Simone Weil and Michael Polanyi use the concept of a blind person’s stick as a metaphor for a kind of knowing.

Anyone using a probe for the first time will feel its impact against his fingers and palm. But as we learn to use a probe, or to use a stick for feeling our way, our awareness of its impact on our hand is transformed into a sense of its point touching the objects we are exploring. This is how an interpretative effort transposes meaningless feelings into meaningful ones. (Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, Routledge Keganan Paul, London 1966, 11-12

If my eyes are blindfolded and my hands are chained to a stick, this stick separates me from things but I can explore them by means of it. It is only the stick which I feel, it is only the wall which I perceive. It is the same with creatures and the faculty of love. Supernatural love touches only creatures and goes only to God.  (Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Routledge, London 2002, p. 62)

We can only know the object the stick touches indirectly by means of the sensations it makes in our hands. So too with loving God. We probe the darkness with our love and most of the time feel only the emptiness of the void. “Tap, tap,” goes the blind man’s stick, but the wand of love only produces silence. No contact, no reverberations, no palpable touch. One reaches out into the silent darkness, into the void. A dark, empty space, but enclosed, like being in a cathedral. Enclosed by breathtaking beauty, if only one could see.

Sometimes a contact is made. Sometimes there is a touch, just a touch, in the darkness and the heart responds.

For me now
there is only the God-space
into which I send out
my probes. I had looked forward
to old age as a time
of quietness, a time to draw
my horizons about me,
to watch memories ripening
in the sunlight of a walled garden.
But there is the void
over my head and the distance
within that the tireless signals
come from. And astronaut
on impossible journeys
to the far side of the self
I return with messages
I cannot decipher . . . R S Thomas