Translate

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Towards a Phenomenology of Gained Sight in John 9: The Man Born Blind



[1]Καὶ παράγων εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον τυφλὸν ἐκ γενετῆς. [2] καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ λέγοντες Ῥαββεί, τίς ἥμαρτεν, οὗτος ἢ οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ, ἵνα τυφλὸς γεννηθῇ; [3] ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς Οὔτε οὗτος ἥμαρτεν οὔτε οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ. [4] ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν: ἔρχεται νὺξ ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι. [5] ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμὶ τοῦ κόσμου. [6] ταῦτα εἰπὼν ἔπτυσεν χαμαὶ καὶ ἐποίησεν πηλὸν ἐκ τοῦ πτύσματος, καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτοῦ τὸν πηλὸν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, [7] καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ὕπαγε νίψαι εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν τοῦ Σιλωάμ ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Ἀπεσταλμένος᾿. ἀπῆλθεν οὖν καὶ ἐνίψατο, καὶ ἦλθεν βλέπων. [8] Οἱ οὖν γείτονες καὶ οἱ θεωροῦντες αὐτὸν τὸ πρότερον ὅτι προσαίτης ἦν ἔλεγον Οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ καθήμενος καὶ προσαιτῶν; [9] ἄλλοι ἔλεγον ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν: ἄλλοι ἔλεγον Οὐχί, ἀλλὰ ὅμοιος αὐτῷ ἐστίν. ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι. [10] ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ Πῶς [οὖν] ἠνεῴχθησάν σου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί; [11] ἀπεκρίθη ἐκεῖνος Ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰησοῦς πηλὸν ἐποίησεν καὶ ἐπέχρισέν μου τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ εἶπέν μοι ὅτι Ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν Σιλωὰμ καὶ νίψαι: ἀπελθὼν οὖν καὶ νιψάμενος ἀνέβλεψα. [12] καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Ποῦ ἐστὶν ἐκεῖνος; λέγει Οὐκ οἶδα. [13] Ἄγουσιν αὐτὸν πρὸς τοὺς Φαρισαίους τόν ποτε τυφλόν. [14] ἦν δὲ σάββατον ἐν ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ τὸν πηλὸν ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἀνέῳξεν αὐτοῦ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς. [15] πάλιν οὖν ἠρώτων αὐτὸν καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πῶς ἀνέβλεψεν. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Πηλὸν ἐπέθηκέν μου ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, καὶ ἐνιψάμην, καὶ βλέπω. [16] ἔλεγον οὖν ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων τινές Οὐκ ἔστιν οὗτος παρὰ θεοῦ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι τὸ σάββατον οὐ τηρεῖ. ἄλλοι [δὲ] ἔλεγον Πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλὸς τοιαῦτα σημεῖα ποιεῖν; καὶ σχίσμα ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. [17] λέγουσιν οὖν τῷ τυφλῷ πάλιν Τί σὺ λέγεις περὶ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἠνέῳξέν σου τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν ὅτι Προφήτης ἐστίν. [18] Οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἦν τυφλὸς καὶ ἀνέβλεψεν, ἕως ὅτου ἐφώνησαν τοὺς γονεῖς αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἀναβλέψαντος [19] καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτοὺς λέγοντες Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς ὑμῶν, ὃν ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι τυφλὸς ἐγεννήθη; πῶς οὖν βλέπει ἄρτι; [20] ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ εἶπαν Οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς ἡμῶν καὶ ὅτι τυφλὸς ἐγεννήθη: [21] πῶς δὲ νῦν βλέπει οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἢ τίς ἤνοιξεν αὐτοῦ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἡμεῖς οὐκ οἴδαμεν: αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε, ἡλικίαν ἔχει, αὐτὸς περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λαλήσει. [22] ταῦτα εἶπαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐφοβοῦντο τοὺς Ἰουδαίους, ἤδη γὰρ συνετέθειντο οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἵνα ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ Χριστόν, ἀποσυνάγωγος γένηται. [23] διὰ τοῦτο οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ εἶπαν ὅτι Ἡλικίαν ἔχει, αὐτὸν ἐπερωτήσατε. [24] Ἐφώνησαν οὖν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκ δευτέρου ὃς ἦν τυφλὸς καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Δὸς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ: ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν. [25] ἀπεκρίθη οὖν ἐκεῖνος Εἰ ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν οὐκ οἶδα: ἓν οἶδα ὅτι τυφλὸς ὢν ἄρτι βλέπω. [26] εἶπαν οὖν αὐτῷ Τί ἐποίησέν σοι; πῶς ἤνοιξέν σου τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς; [27] ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς Εἶπον ὑμῖν ἤδη καὶ οὐκ ἠκούσατε: τί πάλιν θέλετε ἀκούειν; μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε αὐτοῦ μαθηταὶ γενέσθαι; [28] καὶ ἐλοιδόρησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν Σὺ μαθητὴς εἶ ἐκείνου, ἡμεῖς δὲ τοῦ Μωυσέως ἐσμὲν μαθηταί: [29] ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι Μωυσεῖ λελάληκεν ὁ θεός, τοῦτον δὲ οὐκ οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν. [30] ἀπεκρίθη ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἐν τούτῳ γὰρ τὸ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε πόθεν ἐστίν, καὶ ἤνοιξέν μου τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς. [31] οἴδαμεν ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἁμαρτωλῶν οὐκ ἀκούει, ἀλλ᾽ ἐάν τις θεοσεβὴς ᾖ καὶ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιῇ τούτου ἀκούει. [32] ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος οὐκ ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἠνέῳξέν τις ὀφθαλμοὺς τυφλοῦ γεγεννημένου: [33] εἰ μὴ ἦν οὗτος παρὰ θεοῦ, οὐκ ἠδύνατο ποιεῖν οὐδέν. [34] ἀπεκρίθησαν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Ἐν ἁμαρτίαις σὺ ἐγεννήθης ὅλος, καὶ σὺ διδάσκεις ἡμᾶς; καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω. [35] Ἤκουσεν Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω, καὶ εὑρὼν αὐτὸν εἶπεν. Σὺ πιστεύεις εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώ που; [36] ἀπεκρίθη ἐκεῖνος [καὶ εἶπεν] Καὶ τίς ἐστιν, κύριε, ἵνα πιστεύσω εἰς αὐτόν; [37] εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Καὶ ἑώρακας αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λαλῶν μετὰ σοῦ ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν. [38] ὁ δὲ ἔφη Πιστεύω, κύριε: καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ. [39] καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Εἰς κρίμα ἐγὼ εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον ἦλθον, ἵνα οἱ μὴ βλέποντες βλέπωσιν [40] καὶ οἱ βλέποντες τυφλοὶ γένωνται. Ἤκουσαν ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων ταῦτα οἱ μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ ὄντες, καὶ [41] εἶπαν αὐτῷ Μὴ καὶ ἡμεῖς τυφλοί ἐσμεν; εἶπεν αὐτοῖς [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς Εἰ τυφλοὶ ἦτε, οὐκ ἂν εἴχετε ἁμαρτίαν: νῦν δὲ λέγετε ὅτι Βλέπομεν: ἡ ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν μένει.



The Primordial Situation:


A child is born into a world where blindness is a consequence of sin. The child is born blind, either because of his own sin, or the sin of his parents. The child, become a man, a man born blind (henceforth, MBB), is a beggar, one who sits and begs.

The Reversal:

The world is not what it seems (or what it was thought to be): neither for his own sin nor the sin of his parents is the child born blind.

The Existential Situation:

Un-sight to Sight


*****************************************

The Process of Gaining Sight:
1. clay of spittle applied to blind eyes.
2. Washing off of the clay of spittle.
3. establishment of vision.

A Note on Classical Causality:
1. formal cause: 'while I am in the world...'
2. material cause: clay of spittle
3. efficient cause: light of the world
4. final cause: sight, seeing, faith, proclamation of faith in, and Lordship of, Jesus

A Note on Ankyloblepharon filiforme adnatum:

1. Being born with imperforate eyelids
2. Naturalistic causality: Jesus performs a surgical procedure in which the abrasive component of clay, coupled with the enzymatic action of saliva, disrupts the attenuated membrane adhering the eyelids
3. Jesus quite literally opens the eyes of the man born blind
4. Interestingly, none of this impacts the phenomenology of gained sight.
5. What is the diagnosis, if not this one?

Being-in-the-world of the MBB:

1. Usurpation?/sublimation of the divine signature: I am (ego eimi) he who was blind. I now move in the world I see.
2. Testimony: Jesus made clay, applied it to my eyes, he told me to wash, I washed, now I see.
3. Repetition of testimony to the Pharisees
4. First proclamation: he is a prophet
5. Complication: MMB embroiled in dispute of who Jesus is
6. Challenged:  the healer is a sinner
Transformation of the world and being-in-the-world: Transformation as the beginning of Authentic Engagement of the World.
7. You say sinner-uncertainty; I see with certainty he is of God
8. Challenger: I gave apparently unheeded testimony: I will not repeat unless you want to follow the healer; not only is he not a sinner, but devout of God.
9. Self-assertion: sui generis: one born blind has never gained sight before this event.
10. Assertion of Jesus as being of God as efficient cause of this event.
11. Rejection: cast out by the power of the 'old world' Blind and in sin.
Authentic embrace of sight and Responsibility of Seeing:
12. Invitation to faith
13. Further ownership of sight.
14. Seeing is believing: I believe "Lord"
15. Worship.


Sight as Breeding Ground of Phenomenality:



1. Incredulity

2. Unreliability of the sense of sight

3. Testimony

4. Proclamation

5. Rhetoric

6. Irony
7. Faith
8. Novelty
9. Renewal

The narrative structures as outlined above inform the structure of the MBB's experience of gaining sight as the pericope presents the MBB's engagement of his world. There are 2 versions of 'sight' in play in John 9: the effecting of the neurological apparatus of vision, and 'seeing' with those neurological, biological, bodily eyes a world never seen before. The MBB moves into his world as a newly seeing person, and such novelty of sight enables him to see some things that others who have had operational eyes for their whole lives cannot see: 'not seeing' drives and structures the experience of sight for the MBB.

What are the first things he 'sees'? He first experiences the incredulity of those who 'know' him (isn't he the one who sat and begged?). Then he experiences the trompe l'oeil (no, he just looks like that one). His first experiential encounters are with those who do not believe their eyes. He sees those with eyes not seeing very well. He enters a world that does not know him, a world in which he is a stranger. As the stranger, he attempts to bring others to their 'senses', their eyesight: he reassures them : "I am" ( that one).

Wonder begets questions. The MMB moves deeper into his brave new world, giving testimony to the facts at hand in the order of their occurrence: does he hear the words of Jesus as he says he is the 'light of the world'? Perhaps: but for now just the facts: clay, application ('anointing'), wash, see. He lives in each moment of a series of events resulting in the experience of gaining sight and the use of the sense of vision through the normal functions of the eye. Upon being brought to the Pharisees, he articulates the testimony again. He experiences incredulity, an incredulity not budged by his own testimony, but one moved only by the testimony of his parents. He experiences belittlement and rejection until corroborating testimony establishes the facts of blindness from birth and seeing today. He experiences 'seeing' as a mode of suffering, or at least as something unpleasant.  His experience of sight accuses him in the sight of others. Has he feigned blindness? Was he really 'born' blind? Was is congenital or acquired? That he sees now is not the question: Was it that he saw? Only after a brief but humiliating 'trial' can he be acquitted of sight itself.

Nonetheless, there is now something new in the body that in that moment transforms his flesh. Though it is far from clear that his further engagement of the world comes from his transformation from beggar to rhetorician, he does indeed decline a third request for the same testimony. Now he starts asking the questions and drawing conclusions, conclusions he judges as un-seeable to the Pharisees: he eloquently proposes that Jesus is no sinner, and is in fact, of God. More than this, the MBB is 'amazed' at the Pharisees for not knowing/seeing 'where he is from,' whence he comes, his origin: for it is plain for the MBB to see, as plain as the eyes in his head, that his healer is of God.  For this he, with his new found stature of sight, is roundly rejected, and pronounced a disciple of Jesus.

The discussion between the MBB and Jesus is not a non-sequitur, despite how the MBB addresses Jesus, whom he has never seen, as Lord (kyrios). After his encounter with incredulity and those who simply will not see, the MBB, wishing to further engage this new world, seeks the Son of Man offered to him, that he might see and believe: Jesus directs the MBB to himself, and the MMB sees and believes. In this new world where men born blind come to sight, this statement of belief is a powerful engagement of the reality in this world. The MBB begins to move within the fabric of his world, and comes to see the space between its fibers.
So, what then is the structure of the MBB's experience of sight? It begins in an action that sets other actions into motion, and in a phenomenon that generates other phenomena. Clay, its application to the eyes, a command to wash at a specific location (Siloam, 'Sent'), the actual washing off of the clay, and the 'opening' of the eyes (enoixen mou tous ophthalmous). Within these occurrences, the MBB has experienced only the acquisition of the sense of sight, of functioning eyes. The beginning of the experience of sight is first a change in the status of the body. But the experience extends from a body with working eyes to a self that sees and knows a world brand new to that self. He moves from a static 'my body has eyes' to a generative 'my flesh sees'. New body---new flesh.

His body and flesh have a new mode of being-in-the world. His world unfolds from sight as 'sight-of-those-who-do-not-see' into 'my-sight-that-sees'. He sees that eyes, for some, cannot be trusted, or are sometimes distrusted by other selves. He experiences his very self as a stranger to others, and perhaps even a stranger to himself (tantalizingly, the text is silent on the matter of whether he see a reflection of his own visage in the pool of Sent). He comes to see/know rejection. He even comes to see that, now even though he sees, others can see him as remaining fettered in 'utter sin'---that even in this new world, despite his sight, others can see him as still blind. Though he plainly sees the error in the Pharisees, and succinctly and eloquently refutes their assertions, he experiences unwelcome.

Yet, sight breeds not dejection, but greater openness and opening into the world. When he finally sees Jesus, he recognizes him as the one he concluded was 'of God.' He saw the Son of Man, and his sight put him in a posture of worship.

*******************************

An Interview with the MBB

Interviewer (I): What happened to you today?
MBB: I began to see, though I have never seen before.
I: How did that happen?
MBB: A man put clay on my eyes, and when I washed it off, I saw.
I: What did you see?
MBB: I saw what I did not see before.
I: What was that?
MBB: I saw others seeing me.
I: What was that like?
MBB: While the voices seemed familiar, they seemed strange, too.
I: Tell me how things were 'strange'?
MBB: I was a stranger to them. People who saw me every day, saw me as a stranger.
I: How did that make you feel?
MBB: Strange.
I:How did that make you feel?
MBB: I felt a stranger in my own world. I was confused that those who saw me and knew me, saw me and knew me for the first time today.
I: Did that speak to you in any particular way?
MBB: I thought that 'seeing' has something to do with more than just having eyes that function. To see, is also to be open to seeing, to have a willingness to see.
I: How did you handle that?
MBB: I asked them to lose their minds and come to their senses. I reassured them that I was I who used to sit and beg.
I: What happened after that?
MBB: Some did see me, did see that is was really me; others thought I was just someone who looked like me.
I: Tell me about 'seeing'. What can you tell me about the world you saw today?
MBB: Well, I didn't get to see as much of it as I would've liked; I got whisked to the Pharisees who quizzed me about the whole thing. They did not believe what I said.
I: Why do you think you were not believed?
MBB: I do not know.
I: Do you have any guesses?
MBB: They knew my blindness was from some sin.
I: Go on...
MBB: They could barely see me as someone who could see. When they came to know that I was born blind through the testimony of my parents, they granted that I was no longer blind, and could see. They could not get past the sin, though.
I:Why do you say that?
MBB: Because when I deduced something about the man who gave me sight, they said I had nothing to offer them, and that I remained in utter sin. But what sin was this in a man born blind who could see?
I: I don't know: what do you think?
MBB: My mind is still in a muddle. I will think about it.
I: What about the man who gave you sight? Did you find him?
MBB: He found me. He asked if I believed in the 'Son of Man.' I saw who he was, or I intuited who he was. I told him I wanted to see him that I might believe. He said I was seeing him that moment. I believed in him, and kissed his hand.
I: I see we're just about out of time for today.
MBB: Yes, just about out of time.

**********************************

Sin and the Temptation of Theodicy

The gaining of sight of a man born blind is unprecedented in the biblical literature: the 4th evangelist knows that fact, as does his MBB. The restoration of acquired blindness is both empirically and phenomenologically of a different order. In the world in which the MBB, Jesus, his disciples and adversaries move, being born into blindness has a simple etiology (aitia): sin.
The setting therefore for the gift of sight is striking. Sight cuts into a world governed by sin. The disciples attempt to locate the cause of the man's blindness in the sin of either the man or his parents. The first choice is patently absurd, but Jesus denies the other as well. Blindness simply is and is without cause or why. The so-called theodical element of the pericope is an artifact of the Tradition, and not of the substance of the language. Properly translated, the passage is exonerated from theodicy: 'It is neither because of the man's or his parents' sin that he is blind. Regardless, through him the works of God will become manifest: we must do the work of the one who sent me in daylight' (9:3-4). Jesus has introduced a newness in the world for the MBB to see.

If the opening lines of Jn. 9 were really theodicy, those would be the only lines in the library we call 'the bible' in which theodicy appears. The man was not born blind so that Jesus could strut his stuff. Despite all the translations in English, the 4th Gospel does not know theodicy. The bible itself knows only of the juxtaposition of evil and the inscrutable God, and that juxtaposition is not in itself theodicy properly so-called; there is no systematic or thematic theodicy in the bible.



There is no other passage in the bible rendered in English in such crass theodical terms. The evangelist, in fact, goes out of his way to dispel any kind of display of divine power for its own sake. Even when the the MBB 'appears' (i.e., when he is referenced) in the next 2 chapters, John assures us that the signs are not capricious displays of what John Caputo calls the 'divine testosterone'. The point is simply that either we are dealing with the only clearly articulated theodicy in the bible in Jn. 9, or we are not dealing with it at all. A proper translation is not about eisegesis here, but about seeing what John wants us to know about his world.

Did the MBB ever experience his blindness as a consequence or manifestation of sin? The Pharisees insist that he do just that; his world relegates him to sitting and begging, the posture of a sinner and a beggar of mercy, or at least the 'kindness' of others. Does his status as beggar already place him in the grip of sin, already commanding his experiencing blindness as sin? Does he ever ask if his blindness results from his or his parents' sin? Perhaps. Perhaps his emergence as a foil to the Pharisees suggests he's been contemplating the problem for a long time as he sat and begged. He does not reference his time as a beggar when he engages the Pharisees. He does not say to them, in effect, 'well, I've been thinking about all this for a long time, and what you have been peddling makes no sense.' He simply states his critique of the Pharisees' owned ignorance of his healer's origin: he is astounded that the obvious conclusion from his syllogism has eluded them. Indeed, their inability to see that the healer is 'of God' is even thaumastos, a wonder. The MBB offer a concise but edgy rhetoric that so undercuts the Pharisees ignorance, that he nearly embarrasses them into submission, were it not for their obstinacy, which is the point, of course, to the MBB's little speech. He has told them, in other words, you do not see because you will not see. This willful lack of vison (you do not see because you will not see) hangs on thaumastos. The MBB marvels at the machinations of argument that foreclose on verticality and delimit the richer phenomenon (prophet being richer than sinner).*** The myopic logic of not knowing where Jesus is from limps in the world of gained sight. Whatever evidence the MBB adduces to proclaim his healer as 'a prophet' has a logic appropriate to the experience of prophets. The evidence the Pharisees adduce for Jesus as sinner is not compelling, as even they are divided over such logic. But the logic of the experience of gained sight is unassailable.

Only 'sin' can leverage the Pharisees' hold over the MBB, whose sense of sight has yielded common sense as part of his experience of gaining sight. His speech to the Pharisees comes directly from the MBB's experience of sight structured by 'not seeing:' it is a rhetorical expression of the phenomenon of gaining sight in this world in which the MBB moves, engages, and critiques. So, does the MBB ever experience his blindness as a consequence of sin? He has tried that mode of experience 'on for size', and has rejected it out of hand with the sharp tongue of rhetoric, a far more effective and aggressive way of experiencing a new found sight and vision. The last time a beggar offered such a critique, he shot a very sharp, bronze-tipped arrow through the bodies of other usurpers of another lifeworld. The MBB now navigates a new lifeworld, where sin need not hold sway, need not find its way into the hands of the power brokers who yield it to control, humiliate and maintain the status quo.*

I am not suggesting that the MBB has become a marauder upon the status quo, upon the conventions of his facticity that positioned him to sit and beg. This is not about 'payback.' It is about the gift offered and received in love, which in John 9 goes by the names of 'light' and 'sight.' In this world, sin does play, but it plays out ironically through the judgments that come out of one's own mouth, as it often the case in the 4th Gospel. The MBB experiences the ignorance of the Pharisees by savoring its ironic spice, its marvel, its wonder. The Pharisees convict themselves through their 'owned' ignorance, just as they convict themselves with blindness in the closing verses of the chapter. Why, where sight is given in and as love can it also be taken away? The chapter ends very differently for the Pharisees than it does for the MBB. For the Pharisees, seeing where there is no love, light or sight convicts them of sin; for the MBB, the gift of sight and light is received in love and expresses itself in belief and worship---an entirely different experience of sight and seeing as gait into an ever-expanding world.*

***************************************************

Another Interview


Perhaps at the MBB's next interview, the Interviewer, having taken good notes, picks up where they left off:

I: Last time, you were telling me about how you kissed the hand of your healer. Can you tell me more about what that was like for you?
MBB: I had just received sight, and I was present to the man who gave it to me, and I conformed by body to this moment of mutual presence, I worshipped him. I experienced him by seeing him, and what I saw put my body in relation to whom this man is. I experienced him in the conformation of my body.
I: Did he offer his hand for a posture of worship?
MBB. No. My sight found me to take that form in his presence. I could only experience him at that moment in that shape and posture.
I: Was that different from any other posture you have adopted at any time before this moment?
MBB: When I sit and beg, I am in a posture of humiliation; when I am bent in worship, I am in all humility, present to him and to myself.
I: How is humiliation different from humility?
MBB: When I am humiliated by sitting and begging, each coin pressing against my body causes me pain; I suffer because I am grounded in my broken pride. When I am present to love, light and sight, in humility, I am not grounded in pride, but I am not self-grounding at all: my sight finds the light and love of joy in such presence that grounds me outside myself.
I: I think you should be the Interviewer.
MBB: Well I see we are just about out of time for today.


****************************************************

Causality


Classical causality, the explanation of things and their behaviors, finds it hard to enter the world of the MBB. It doesn't even seem to be comfortable in the outline presented above, for its language and concepts are foreign to the phenomenalities of gaining sight in such a world. In John, picking up the phone causes it to ring. Before Abraham was I am. The 4th gospel even subverts grammatical tense. Forcing the action of John 9 into such categories sheds little light (though it burns hot in the conceptual idol). Sight, then, in John 9 begins not in an image projected upon the human retina, the body, but in the attempts of others to see. The MBB experiences his sight first by being 'not seen.' His 'seeing' encounters not seeing before he sees: the first thing he sees in not being seen, known, or recognized. The irony than runs rampant through the gospel runs through the experience of sight in our pericope. Its irony also mocks the niceties of causality that can only function as mere labels, signposts for vistas that signposts, being what they are, can never reach or see.

The gaining of sight to the MBB functions as semeia, perhaps even as sacrament, perhaps even in a hylomorphism according to sacramental theology---for us readers. Does the MBB experience the gaining of sight as sacrament? Does the gaining of sight 'signify' for the MBB, and does it cause what it signifies for him, in his experience of it? The anachronism of 'sacrament' aside, can we legitimately ask if the sign of giving sight to the MBB, is a sign for the MBB? This question cannot operate at the level of the phenomenon, and the gaining of sight enters the MBB's experience prior to any signification. Sight is before it can signify. Sight is unmediated even if arrives first by 'not-seeing.' In this sense, 'not-seeing' does not mediate the reception of sight for the MBB.

**************************************************

Ego Eimi and the Purloined Signature

Perhaps I make too much of this kind of thing. Still, I am fascinated that apart from the divine, only the MBB utters the words ego eimi. Given the economy of John's gospel, that deployment of the divine signature by a mere mortal, let alone a man who's spent his whole life humiliated by a culture that views blindness as sin, is no lapsus linguae. Though we must supply the natural corollary, as every translation does, 'the man,' 'the one who was blind,' etc., the evangelist does not, and I would suggest he does not to invite ambiguity. What we must supply is certainly implied by the language and context, so naturally, we supply what John does not. A small point, for sure.

The very phenomenon of gaining sight in the MBB's world lead him to utter the very first words he utters as a human with sight. He says them as two words only: ego eimi. To say the words that only divinity says is to participate in the divine. Why these words, and why these words to neutralize the 'blindness' of those whose incredulity can even assert simulacra? Sight gained by a man born blind announces itself to the MBB and his world with the divine ratification of divinity's signature. He will, in short shrift, find himself before the Pharisees who will try to convince him that he should direct his praise to God, not Jesus, who is a sinner whose origins are unseen and unknown. In short, the MBB experiences his sight as an expression of being itself, as an assertion of being itself: I am. Seeing is not only believing, but being as well; and being is believing, it would seem. Sight is about to deliver the MBB into belief in his healer as one who is 'of God.' In the MBB's very being-in-the-world, in the act of serial engagements in his world, sight finds faith.

Within the compression of John 9, the MBB recapitulates Jesus experience in the same world. He enters the world bodily with eyes to see, engages the world, wins recognition and earns contempt, he is cast out, and received into divinity, into love. The world is transformed by the light, sight and love of divine gift. The MBB is rather like Jesus. What's a signature amongst friends?**

****************************************************

Another Interview


I: You said recently that the coin in your hand hurt. Can you tell me a bit more?
MBB: It did not hurt until the day I could see.
I: How does seeing now make you feel pain in the past.
MBB: I could not see the way things were until I saw the way they are.
I: How are the way things are the way things were?
MBB: The day I gained sight gave me sight into the past. I never saw myself begging. I can see now my humiliation then, only because I see with humility now.

*****************************************************

Sight fleshes out being and time for the MBB. Only in his being given by sight can he see his non-being. Through the lens of Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians, the MBB has lived both the ta me onta and the ta onta. He undoes the ta onta as he moves through his being given through sight, and undoes his ta me onta as a sitter and a beggar. He could not move into a world of sight because he didn't have enough 'body' for the task; now with sight in his eyes, body and flesh, he engages being-in-the-world and being-toward-others.

The phenomenon of gaining sight is a complex phenomenon that generates other phenomenalities as it unfolds in the MBB's lifeworld. He experiences sight as novelty and strange, and he experiences himself as a stranger in a strange landscape. The unseeing on the part of others enters his visual field at the moment he sees and, seeing, announces his own being's arrival: I am. With his newly gained sight, he encounters disbelief, incredulity, and the unreliability of the eyes in the heads of some others. What is a trompe l'oeil for them is absolute clarity of focus for him. The MMB experiences his gift of sight as structured by the distortion of sight, of unseeing. He then experiences sight as knowing and discernment. Though his sight prompts testimony of receiving sight, his testimony, and therefore his sight, is rejected until the testimony of 'more reliable witnesses' corroborates the transformation from unsighted to sighted. The Pharisees attempt to redirect his view toward God because they do not see or know the healer. His gaze, though, remains invulnerable to misdirection as his focus remains fixed on what the Pharisees only think they see and know. They see sin where there is no sin. The MBB sees no sin where there is no sin. The MMB's sight relocates sin to its proper place, not in a blindness of the body, but a blindness in the flesh. The MBB's experience of sight is further complicated by its dislocation of the status quo, the dislocation of power from the ones who wield it inauthentically, to the one who wields it with authenticity. His experience of sight is finalized in his worship of the Son of Man. Sight is light, being and believing.

Each lived moment of sight asserts the here-ness of the MBB. That here-ness begins to leave artifacts in his lifeworld: he speaks his being into Being (I am); he speaks his testimony as instantiation of sight; he proclaims the 'prophet'; he confronts the error of the Pharisees by qualifying its premise and pointing to its logical flaw; he sees his healer as Son of Man; he believes what his sight has given. Each step his sight takes into being-in-the-world leaves a footprint of here-ness of a someone who really is there.

Though the MBB has already moved on and the final words of Jesus to the Pharisees do not enter his experience, his experience of sight-as-rhetoric has prefigured that moment. Jesus makes concrete what the MBB has made implicit in his own speech to them. The MBB, with a sight gained, merely points to the Pharisees lack of sight, and merely suggests that what they do not see is the divine in action. Jesus, that other rhetorician, ties the whole experience of gaining sight into a subversion of the world order: you assert your vision in the absence of vision and that is sin. Your vision is a vision of power and being, but now your power and being is reduced to sin because you say you see where you do not see. The MBB now sees his world: those who saw their world now see their world fade away.

**************************************************

Is Sight a Religious Experience for the MBB?

Is the world of the MBB a religious world for him prior to gaining sight? He sits and begs. That is his life. It is sin that has dictated his predicament. Does 'sin' make his world de facto a religious world? Does the appearance of the word, "God," impose religiosity in this world or within the experience of the MBB? I think not, for the appearance of the word, 'God', is the appearance of just another thing in the world.  There is no question that worship concludes and ratifies the MBB's experience of gaining sight. The progress of the narrative, though, gives us pause. He knows nothing of his healer: he does not see him, and he might not even, at first, hear him. The experience of sight dominates his navigation of his world. He has not gained sight because of his faith in God, or in Jesus: his faith has not saved his eyes. We know nothing of his faith status, his belief system. Perhaps his religion is blindness itself. Perhaps he simply believes in a sightless existence and moves in a 'religious' space of darkness. We only observe his experience of sight when it is thrust upon him, and he, in turn, discovers himself thrown into a world in which he sees. His sight then provides a vehicle of discovery, and he rides this vehicle like a bat out of blindness. Fleeing from blindness and flying headlong into his world he discovers truths of the senses, of the emotions, of knowledge, of power, of injustice (and justice, too), of 'religion', of teachers who will not be taught, of the gift.

Wasn't sight always a gift in the experience of the MBB? He certainly receives something in his body that was not there prior, yet, as first, sight is not a gift, but still another mode of receiving. Sight enables the MBB to receive his world as he grasps it. At first, things seem less than promising; but as the aperture of his sight widens upon his world, and he moves closer and closer to the things in his world, he approaches the gift more closely too, as he navigates his way to the giver of the gift, the healer-of-God. When does sight become, for the MBB, sight-as-gift? It might be that moment when sight becomes unequivocally positive, when it gives what it give absolutely and irrevocably. When I say 'absolutely' here, I do not mean that he ever completely grasps the saturated phenomenon in toto, but that 'negative certainty' is evoked absolutely. The 'impact' is absolute: the counter-experience is crystal clear about how unclear the phenomenon is experienced. As such, sight becomes gift; it is received in absolute perfection, completion, when it is united to the vision of the giver: when the Son of Man comes into the MBB's view of the world. Sight, in this moment, enters the MBB's consciousness as absolute gift and it is received in belief. It is only at this moment that sight extends into the phenomena of religious experience.


Urgency and Meaning



The MBB moves through his world with an urgency born of the novelty of sight. Every engagement with his world propels him to a subsequent encounter. As he himself becomes increasingly visible in the world through which he moves, that world becomes increasingly visible to him. He wants to see; he desires to see more and more. He searches for the very substance of sight itself: he searches for meaning. Is this urgency palpable to him, or is it an artifact of textuality, of the compression of motion within the MBB's landscape? His very movements trace the gift of sight within his body to a gift of sight within his 'self.' From the pool of Silo'am to the feet and hand of Jesus, he pursues a logic of sight to the logic of meaning. At each juncture of his sight and the sight of others, he confronts confusion and wonder, the very heart of the search for meaning, for what it means to see. What meanings does sight have? These enter his experience as the burdens of sight, the demands of sight, the responsibility of sight and seeing.



As he develops a sense of ownership of sight, he witnesses how others own their sight. Some own sight quite loosely; others tightly and even stingily, with the narrowest deployments of sight and vision. In response, the MBB acquires a generosity of sight as its aperture opens his world. Even in the biting irony of his rhetoric visits upon the Pharisees there rests an invitation to discipleship. Though the Pharisees disappoint his generosity, and humiliate him, the MBB continues to create his world anew as he continues his journey to the source of his sight. He seeks and he is found. Being found is being seen, and the MBB is founded upon an invitation to see the Son of Man. He accepts the invitation and discovers belief as he sees the one he gazes upon. "I believe, Lord." The entire motion from blind beggar---ta me onta, to a new and seeing being---ta onta, unites sight with being, and being with seeing and believing.

End Notes


*I try hard to avoid Binswanger's 'error' (I wonder if Merleau-Ponty makes a similar 'error' in The Phenomenology of Perception) as delineated in Heidegger's The Zollikon Seminars--- failing to distinguish regional from fundamental ontologies, or even the ontic from the ontological. When I say 'new lifeworld,' I refer to the novelty of gained sight, and renewal of the person and his being-in-the-world, and I remain mindful of lifeworld as co-constituted by homeworld and alienworld. I deploy these terms as Husserl has done so, but mainly through Anthony Steinbock's appropriation and explication of them in his Home and Beyond. How might these terms work in Jn. 9, or for the MBB? The MBB's homeworld is his 'comfort zone' as one who sits and begs in blindness; the alienworld, for him, is both everything excluded by blindness, and also the passerby who comes crashing into his homeworld, disrupting it of its very constitution, by visiting gained sight upon his homeworld. His lifeworld is forever changed. The experience of gained sight is the creative imposition of the alienworld upon his homeworld, co-constituting the lifeworld in which he is now someone who sees. The lifeworld evolves through ever emerging encounters of the homeworld and the alienworld.

**John's genius gives us a MBB with gained sight who navigates his world as one crying in the wilderness, prophet-like, discovering his call from the divine by taking on the being of the divine (by appropriating the divine signature). Does that 'save' him? There is a distance between re-enacting the Christ event in microcosm and coming before God and saying 'I believe, Lord.' Unless, of course, we consider the instance when the human touches the divine, as response to the call. This is the place where ego eimi means 'I believe, Lord.' It is the place where, in response to 'where are you' one says hineni, here I AM. Interestingly, LXX declines translating hineni as ego eimi, and instead uses all kinds of circumlocutions.

***Verticality is tricky here, except for the information provided by the Pharisees: 'give glory to God.' The verticality involves identifying the yet to be named Jesus as 'of God.' The Pharisees attempt to 'delimit' what the MBB has 'de-limited', and that 'delimitation' is 'idolatry'. I probably would have couched the larger point here in language other that 'breeding' and 'generativity,' were it not for Steinbock's analysis of static/genetic/generative phenomenologies, and how complex phenomena breed a complex phenomenology to cope with them ('generative' phenomenology); and after Heidegger has opened his analysis to the 'phenomenon of proclamation' in Phenomenology of Religious Life, I felt myself on surer 'breeding' ground. 

1 comment: