What is the New Blindness of Human?

Blindness by Mahsa Rezaie

Saramago starts the first chapter of Blindness with a shocking epigraph:

“If you can see, look. If you can look, observe”

Blindness is about the inability of human beings to observe in the new modern world. In the pre-modern era, men were walking in the light with closed eyes, now we are walking with eyes wide open into the darkness. In the pre-modernity era, we were living with the illusion of illumination! Imagine how little candles can only enlighten a small area around them and that is how religions and traditional customs have shed a light into the darkness giving us the illusion of enlightening.

Religion claims that it knows everything and there is nothing unknown in this bright world. But the modern era starts with the acceptance of ignorance and that we are living in the darkness. Going through the darkness and accepting that, however, has been suggested by some mystics in Persian literature such as in poets of Hafiz or in Sohrevardi famous article of “Red Wisdom”. But putting aside these exceptions, the pre-modern world was the time we had this illusive belief that we know while we did not.

From a personal perspective, abandoning the religious beliefs and accepting ignorance, is accompanied by fear and emptiness. Modernity emphasizes more on individuality and leaves the individual with these complicated feelings of loneliness and blindness. Knowledge, however, has tried to fill in the void for the man. Understanding the secrets in the world diminishes the mysteries and perceptions replace the myths. It seems that replacing this scientific description of existence and replacing the non-scientific religious cosmology with this perception, if not helps the human being with the feeling of anxiety, it helps to feel illuminated.

Fear by Mahsa Rezaie

But blindness that Saramago describes in his novel is different! it is not the blindness of human being due to not knowing, it is the illusion of observation of human being in the new world. Bombardment of human beings with information and all scientific findings has made us blind again as we are not able to observe! Saramgo defines it as white blindness in which all is white and bright in front of your eyes! There are many secrets in the world that has not and may never be perceived with science. We are not able to combine our scientific findings to have a clear understanding of the existence and give meaning to it. Science tells us “Hows” and yet it is not capable of determination of “Whys”.

Postmodernity starts with acceptance of this new blindness, this new ignorance, though we should be careful about not losing our achievements in modernity! Rationality, critical thinking, and accepting our ignorance are important legacies of the modernity. The inability of modernity in providing all answers and its incapability to fulfill human beings’ needs for meaningfulness, has led us to reconsider the traditional beliefs and return to pre-modernity sources of wisdom. That is the reason why Buddhism and other religions such as Christianity and Islam are now being more welcomed in many of the developed countries. This search for the meaning and fulfillment of spiritual needs may, as Dariush Shayegan explains, lead into the dangerous illusionism. Thus in the postmodern era, while the intellectuals are trying to defeat annihilation of meaning in the existence, they must fight back antagonism with rationality, and replacement of our current understanding of the existence with the illusions and superstitions of the past.

The most important concern that we should have for now and for the future, is how we can avoid the creation of Frankenstein’s monsters that are created by putting pieces of inconsistent beliefs that are kept together by a sort of fascism. Our blindness may be cured, but the cure requires our correct use of all sources of wisdom we have found throughout all eras of existence. We need rationality as much as spirituality; we need science as much as we need mysticism and Gnosticism. We need to learn how to move in between these separate worlds and have access to the wisdom in each of these spaces. We need to be careful about how to avoid new blindness: the illusion of meaning!