There’s a distinction in philosophy between two types of seeing. The two types are properly called “seeing that” and “seeing as”. It’s a tricky one for me to understand sometimes, but I think I have it right here, and if not then this is a new distinction that I’m making and I should be made famous for it. “Seeing that” is seeing the bare, uninterpreted elements of a situation – for instance, a woman noticing that there happens to be a red smeared stain on the collar of her husband’s shirt. “Seeing as” is moving from the bare, material elements of a situation to an interpretation of those elements – in this situation the woman interprets that red stain as a living symbol of the infidelity of her husband, confirmation that her thighs are too fat (as she had suspected) rendering her unattractive, the sign of the impending doom of her marriage, family, and whole life, etc.
Now we see the world in these two ways all the time. Our eyes report the world to us in a series of dry, vacuous shapes and colors, and our minds are left to fill those images with meaning. This process somehow instantly transforms the image of a person’s body into “jim” (which could trigger fear and anxiety if jim is our abusive stepfather, or joy if jim is a long lost friend, though either way, jim is the same visual image).
The practical consideration I want to bring up here is that this process of “seeing as” has a pretty drastic impact on the way we live. Seeing as is our mind impregnating every image with some value (or de-valuing), and often times we get it wrong. Seeing as is the bridge between our worldview and our world.
Martin Luther said that the man knocking on the brothel door is searching for God. Ecclesiastes says that God has set eternity in our heart. Such statements correct a common misconception that the Christian makes about the world – the mistake of thinking that unspiritual people aren’t concerned with God. They are. Every person has a natural desire to find, and continually enjoy The Great Thing. Everyone feels that desire, no matter what, and our value systems play a role here. [A value system, here, means a sort of list in your mind of everything, and how valuable it is to you; everyone has one]. The world tries to guide us in developing this system. It constantly sells us things as “the big thing you need”, The Great Thing that you’ve been looking for. Most often, that’s sex or food or something.
Buying into a false value system ultimately will construe our view and EXPERIENCE of reality, since our value system determines how we see things. The normal UAB frat-boy value system will likely see sex as The Great Thing that sits at the top, and will thus cause him to see women as (“see as”) mere opportunities for getting that great thing he needs. The glutton’s value system seats food at the top (seeing it as the great thing he needs), and so he constantly thinks he craves it, but it never satisfies. We always feel this need for some great thing, and we can see how this need, coupled with a false, worldly idea of what that great, all-satidfying thing is, can lead to the total devastation of a life; a life consumed by constant chasing after something that will never satisfy, fueled by the false notion that that thing is truly great, that that thing really corresponds to the Great Need we all have.
Value System —“seeing as” implants meaning into the images—–> Populated Images / Interpreted World
So we are left, when we adopt a false value sytem, seeing the world in a very (literally) insane way. The frat boy sees every passing girl as a lost chance at the truly blessed life, and every approaching girl as an opportunity to be had, porn becomes a near approximation of blessedness, and women are emptied of their persons to be filled with a value that is only god’s.
Many girls seem to fall as equal victims. Being beautiful is often seen as the blessed life, The Great Thing. Every glance in the mirror is somewhere between devestating or exulting (probably the former). Magazines, to the women in our culture, aren’t seen as giving mere advice on how to reduce the physical mass and surface are of the tissue surrounding the femur; they peddle promises of being beautiful, lovable, worthwhile.
Thank God that he has built in these categories of terrible things, bad things, neutral things, good things, great things, and The Great Thing that make us squirm at encountering true evil and constantly thirst for true greaness in our lives, otherwise we would be hopeless, for we would never search, and even if we were shown God himself, we would walk away without a care. So, armed with knowledge of the world, ourselves, and God, let us ask “I am seeing this, but what am I seeing it as? And, what should I see it as?” So much pain, frustration, false hope, and fear are generated there when instead we should often times see light, life, joy, Christlike sorrow, or hope.
“Consider it all joy then whenever you face trials of any kind” – James “saw as” a bit differently than most. God bless.