“Do you not see what is right in front of you?”
There is a famous psychological experiment called the “Dancing Gorilla Experiment.” A quick Google search should deliver a few renditions for your viewing pleasure. If you want to participate in the experiment, do not read further until watching a clip since what I am about to say will ruin you as a test subject.
The experiment was a counting exercise where a study participant had to count the number of times a basketball was passed between a group of persons on a basketball court. While the participant is subsumed in counting the number of passes, a person in a gorilla costume dances in the center of the group passing the basketball. At the conclusion of the study, participants are asked about the number of passes they counted. They give their answers. Then, the study participants are asked whether they saw a person dancing in a gorilla suit. A majority of study participants reported to not have seen the dancing gorilla, even though the gorilla was in their center of their optical field. The experiment suggests we do not notice certain objects when our attention is focused on another aspect of our sense experience.
The First Reading and the Gospel passage today echo what the Dancing Gorilla Experiment demonstrates. When our attention is focused on one aspect, we miss other objects and persons who are right in front of us. I think Jesus knew this fact about our limited attention. He says to the people to whom he is preaching, “Do you not see what is right in front of you?” The crowd is interested in seeing a sign to confirm what Jesus preaches is true. They want to see if Jesus is trustworthy.
Even if they were to see a sign, I am not sure they would have seen it, just like the dancing gorilla in the experiment. We are sometimes lost in the work and toil of ordinary life that we become blind to the extra-ordinary presence of God working in the world. We can come to see people who interrupt our plans as distractions, rather than issuing us invitations to notice and care.
We need God’s assistance to break our habituated way of listening and seeing. Taking a little time each day to pray that we may be sensitive to the Lord’s movements is a start. Let us pray for the grace that we may truly grasp where the Lord is working in our lives and in the world.
What daily practices do you have to slow down to become aware of God’s presence?