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Scott Rochat: Seeing Outside the ‘Box’

January 13, 2019
Scott Rochat Rochat, Can You See?

Apparently, this year is for the birds.

If you don’t quite see where this is going ... well, that’s kind of appropriate. Neither did a Utah teenager who decided to blindfold herself while going for a drive a few days ago. The short sightless trip ended up just about as you’d expect, though thankfully the resulting two-car crash produced no fatalities or injuries.

Why the blindfold? If you’ve been watching Netflix, you probably already know the answer. Yes, this was the latest turn in the Bird Box Challenge, an attempt to imitate a thriller where failing to cover your eyes leads to horrific visions and death.

In this case, of course, the horrific visions are the ones posted on YouTube as non-actors attempt to accomplish everyday tasks with their eyes covered. Sometimes with collision or injury resulting.

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE,” Netflix tweeted in response to the fad. “We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

I have to admit that calling this out feels a little hypocritical. When I was in junior high school, my sisters and I invented the highly original game known as “Blackout Tag.” To play, you simply descended into the basement, turned out every light source until the surroundings were pitch black, and then played tag while crawling on your hands and knees. (Why crawling? Safety, of course!)

We only played once. Charging headfirst into a table leg in the course of the game will do that. It remains the stupidest black eye I have ever received, and probably the one least believed by my friends at the time. “Oh, you ‘ran into a table leg.’ Yeah, sure. Right. How big was the table and what grade was he in?”

Anyone could have seen it coming. Except us. We didn’t just turn out the lights - we turned out any thought of possible consequences.

Sound familiar?

As a species, we’re good at not seeing what’s right in front of our faces. Sometimes it’s just because we live life by reflex. Most of us, I think, have driven home without any real awareness of the road or the buildings on either side - not because of a blindfold, but because we’ve seen the route so many times that we don’t see it any more.

Other times - well, other times, it’s a little more willful. We encounter facts that are inconvenient. Or pain that we don’t want to think about. Or rumors that are so nice to just believe. And so, we cover our eyes, not wanting to challenge our view of the way the world works, looking away from anything that might shake up the way we’ve always lived our life.

That has consequences. Not always as dramatic as a two-car crash on a Utah parkway, but potentially, just as harmful.

It means a lack of empathy, because we fail to see others as meaningful and worthy of care.

It means a lack of cooperation, because we fail to see anyone’s view but our own.

It means a lack of foresight, because we fail to see dangers we could plan for — or worse, blindfold ourselves by fixating on dangers that don’t exist.

“Bird Box” isn’t entirely wrong. Choosing to see can be painful. It can change your life, and not always in comfortable ways. But while voluntary blindness may make tense, entertaining fiction, sight is the real survival skill.

Open the box. You might just appreciate the bird’s-eye view.

Certainly the drivers around you will.

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