Seeing in the Rain

It’s raining today.  The nonstop kind of rain, complete with severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches.  So of course, being the proud owner of a hyper German Shepherd mix, my first thought was, “Oh good Lord, how are we going to get EXERCISE?!”

Tennis-ball fetch in the hallway was out, because I have neighbors now, and the sound of a 75-lb dog skittering frantically up and down one’s hallway kinda break down the whole good-fences-make-good-neighbors policy.  So we went for a run in the rain.

How was it?  Wet.  But also pretty cool. There are different smells when it rains, and different sounds.  What especially caught my attention was the sound–the way that it helped me “see” the landscape around me.  Rain sounds different when you’re running through a forest, under a tree, along the open road.  The changing cadence of the rain helped me map my landscape; I could see without looking.

It brought to mind an article I read in my undergrad for a Humanities course.  The textbook it was found in was The New Humanities Reader, and the article, “The Mind’s Eye: What the Blind See” was written by Oliver Sacks.  Sacks tells the story of John Hull, who became blind in middle age and consciously devoted his energy to reprioritize his senses to make up for his lost sight.  Hull finds that the deliberate focus on which sense he used to interact with the world changed what he “saw:”

Thus [Hull] speaks of how the sound of rain, never before accorded much attention, can now delineate a whole landscape for him, for its sound on the garden path is different from its sound as it drums on the lawn, or on the bushes in his garden, or on the fence dividing the road… [ Hull testifies, “It] gives a sense of perspective and of the actual relationships of one part of the world to another.” (476)

Some classmates and I joked today, just before braving the deluge to return to our classes and apartments, that we were remembering our baptisms in choosing to get drenched instead of sensibly waiting for the rain to let up.

I think that the point of Hull’s story is related to the purpose of our baptisms.  Hull’s story demonstrates how flexible our brains and the perceptions of the world that they create are, and begs that we engage that flexibility by challenging our solid perceptions.  Our baptisms, in a similar way, tell us that our perceptions have been changed.  We were sinners…and now we’re saints too.  We were curved in on ourselves…and now we’re challenged daily to unfurl and find power in vulnerability.

The tune to the old hymn runs, “I once was blind, but now I see.”  The falling waters of baptism call us to recognize a different way of seeing the world: grace-saturated, soaked with abundance, streaming with justice and mercy, and surrounding us with the dripping sound of steadfast love.

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