With his wand as a radar, a blind man was walking along Rua do Carmo, in Lisbon. He couldn’t see the kids playing and jumping on their way home from school, he couldn’t see the buildings that rose up on either side. He will not go down in history like the famous blind people, Camões, Homer or Helena Kéller. But he “sees” inwards.

And here, I, a sinner, confess myself. I was zigzagging through an anthill of people at rush hour and ended up kicking the wand of this unusual blind man. When I returned it to him with a thousand pleas for forgiveness, he merely said between understanding and good humour: “After all, friend, who is the blind man?”

In fact, he didn’t need to open his eyes to find himself surrounded by blind people.  He who is running around here and there and doesn’t even notice the people around him, isn’t he really blind? Isn’t he blind who only talks about money, cheap projects and withering hopes? And aren’t those men and women who worship consumption and pleasure at any price really blind? Is it not blind who can only see two palms in front of his nose and does not mind seeing other panoramas?

There is blindness where there is no love. Those blinded by anger, pride, passions and prejudices do not need to go to the oculist, but to the cardiologist. Without a heart they do not see injustice or respect the rights of others. They are not bothered by the degradation of the family or the environment. Selfish concerns cloud their vision to such an extent that even that infinite mountain which is God disappears from their horizon. And the same can be said of that other great mountain which is the human being.

Hence the moving prayer of my dear friend: “Thank you, God, for having made me blind. I pray to you for those who have sight but do not see you”.

We know that “what is essential is invisible to the eye”. You cannot see the submerged foundations of a bridge. You cannot see the roots and the sap of a tree. You cannot see the genius of the artist or the research carried out in the silence of the laboratory. Most things are not seen with the eyes.

The Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran asked a blind wise man what kind of wisdom he cultivated. He replied that he was an “astronomer”. He scanned “suns, and moons, and stars”.

He was right. In each person there is a fertile universe of beauty and goodness that can only be seen with the heart.

The Italian Luigi Orione founded houses for orphans and abused children, centres for drug addicts and handicapped people, homes for the elderly and homeless people. A man of faith, he understood that his works, spread all over the world, needed to be supported by prayer and he also founded the Blind Hermits. At this time of day, in Italy or Brazil, they are there contemplating the Invisible.

And while I am making these digressions, my blind man perhaps continues to chout down the Rua do Carmo, smiling, majestic, drinking the sun and the fresh evening air.

People cross paths with him, almost running him over and kicking his wand. Distracted, hurried, they see almost nothing. They don’t caress the beauty of the shop windows with their eyes. Drivers can’t see the pedestrian crossings or the green or red lights. Nobody listens to the flower shop or admires the splendour of the day.

But am I going to condemn them, I who do not know how to look at my fellow men with tenderness nor thank them for the kindness they show me? I who rarely pause to observe the stones of the starry sky, nor have a telescopic heart to see far beyond my nose?

True, the worst blind man is the one who does not want to see.


Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf

(PHOTO: Hermes Rivera)


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