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A Meditation on Ut Prosim

A Meditation on Ut Prosim

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Published by Jim Dubinsky

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Published by: Jim Dubinsky on Aug 26, 2010
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08/26/2010

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Open your Eyes Jim Dubinsky, published in
CT 
In her essay "Seeing," Annie Dillard tells an anecdote of newly sighted patients, blindedfrom birth, who have had cataract operations that restored their sight. Contrary to what youmay expect  that the experience of finally seeing after many years of blindness will be abeautiful and almost ecstatic one  some of these patients find the "tremendous size of theworld" oppressing, and it may take weeks, months, and even years to adjust to the dramaticincrease in stimuli; some even choose to lose or not make use of their newly acquired sense.For them, seeing is traumatic: what they see doesnt match what they had imagined.While few of us will ever experience such a dramatic change in sense perception in ourlives, many of us may encounter moments when, in William Wordsworths words, the world istoo much with us. Wordsworths sonnet is a work of art, but it is also an admonishment andperhaps a request for us to return to common sense or to use our senses more fully and for verydifferent purposes. He follows the opening words with others that are equally relevant andpowerful: The world is too much with us; late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay wasteour powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordidboon! In this opening stanza, Wordsworth suggests that when we focus on the material, whenwe spend too much time getting and spending, we lose both our ability to see and ourhearts; our emotional and perhaps spiritual connection to others and to the world around us isgiven away.In the past two weeks, two new staff members of the Center for Student Engagementand Community Partnerships (CSECP)both AmeriCorps VISTA volunteershave writtenarticles for the
CT 
. In those articles Alexia Edwards and Tara Milligan outlined some of the workthey are doing in the New River Valley and presented opportunities for interested people to get
 
involved, to put aside getting and spending and connect with and to others throughvolunteerism. My hope is that many of you who read this paper will take a moment to pauseand realize how easy it can be to be blind to or to lose sight of the world around you, a worldthat is far larger and often more complicated and oppressive than the cocoon that you can buildwhile living on the Virginia Tech campus or even in Blacksburg. If there is any doubt, simply takea ride to Pulaski, Martinsville or Danville, a ride to visit towns in Virginia where the economicdownturn has left many people out of work and resulted in true hardship for families. Re-readlast weeks essay by Tara about families facing impossible choices concerning how to use theirlimited funds. You do not have to travel to Haiti or to the Sudan to find poverty or hardship.You can find it right here. Even in Blacksburg there are hundreds of homeless children, a factthat many may find nearly impossible to believe. But, as New River Family Shelter Director CarolJohnson says, "Our homeless population looks different. It's not as visible because you don't seea lot of people living on the street."One of our missions at CSECP is to work in partnership with organizations such as theYMCA at VT, NRV Cares, New River Community Action (NRCA), Second Harvest, theChristiansburg Institute, and New River Family Shelter to see the needs in our community thatare not easily visible and then work with students, staff, and faculty who have the talent, time,and energy to address those needs. Sometimes Ive found that seeing isnt easy; it is, as Dillardspeaks of nature, very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-dont affair. Our eyes are notaccustomed to notice the signs of rural poverty or homelessness. We need a guide, which is animportant role the nonprofit organizations play. But usually, in my experience, with just a bit of guidance, the veils over our eyes lift quickly, and we start to focus on obligations to fellowhuman beings and to society.But focusing on obligations and acting (in word or deed) often require time or

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