WYSIATI (What you see is all there is)


Yes -- the spaceship-like object is really the moon.

Yes — the spaceship-like object is really the moon.

My husband always makes a point of taking Chicago visitors to the west side of town. Japanese colleagues, visiting family members, east coast friends – no matter who you are, where you’re from, or how long you are staying, Terry will load you up into the car and travel to a part of Chicago far away from the vibrant downtown and the shimmering lakefront.

He takes visitors to a world hidden from the view of his 47th floor office window, and to people who very well might never have even left their neighborhood.

“This, too, is Chicago,” he’ll say. East Garfield Park, West Humboldt, South Austin. All part of Chicago. All part of this city that we love. All neighborhoods in this place we call home.

I’m writing this post while watching a painfully beautiful moon rise over the Sea of Galilee. I’m sitting on the veranda of one of the many hotels that dot the lake promenade of Tiberias.  Although I’m only here for two days, I’ve made the acquaintance of several traveling Baptists from Charlotte, a vibrant Jewish family from Tel Aviv and a friendly waiter  named Ferris.

None of the travelers recalled going through a Palestinian town (though the Baptists had spent the day in Nazareth, a town 60% Muslim) or meeting anyone they would describe as “Arab”. The waiter, Ferris, had of course. But he didn’t find it safe that we had traveled through Nablus or visited Jericho. He personally had never done so.

“What you see is all there is”, writes Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.  The late philosopher Iris Murdoch said it like this, “We pay attention to what we see”.

I’ve seen bus load after bus load of Christians streaming into this amazing country. They will see many places we call holy, but they will likely never see the suffering that is right there, if they only noticed.  They will likely never see the walls that fear has created between people who overwhelmingly seek the same things: work, freedom of movement, security for their children and a way of practicing their faith.

It would be easy to blame them or to feel morally superior – but that would be completely missing the point: Each one of us only pays attention to what we see; what we see is limited and what we see is all there is for us.

Please, visit Nablus and Jericho, along with Jerusalem and Bethlehem; Hang out in West Garfield Park, Austin too.  Keep your eyes open. Stay humble. And try and see a little bit more every day.


*Thanks Dave Clark for the edit! 

3 thoughts on “WYSIATI (What you see is all there is)

  1. Another very thoughtful post, Laura. I’ve especially appreciated that you have been close to the earth on this pilgrimage – observing & experiencing the beauty of the land and the sky – while also allowing yourself to be deeply moved by the people and their very poignant & sometimes heart-breaking situations there. Thank you again for allowing us to see & feel a fraction of what you & the others from church are encountering.

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