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The MovieGoer: Blindsight

alec vanderboom

This documentary traces how the first blind man who summited Mount Everest (an American) helps six blind Tibetan teenagers climb a nearby peak. The Tibetan culture looks on these blinds kids as total outcasts. It shocking to see how terribly they are treated and beautifully rewarding to see how these kids find hope in their friendships with each other.

When I was in college, the "Free Tibet" movement was huge. This movie shocked me with the ugly side of Buddhism: hatred of the disabled. Under the theory of reincarnation, if you're blind then you must have been a giant sinner in a previous lifetime.

It was totally chilling to hear a blind teenage from Tibet calmly explain "I must have done something really bad in my past life to merit becoming blind in this life, but I don't think I killed anyone. Killing someone would be a heinous crime and for that I would have been born again as a non-human."

We live in a pluralistic American society where Buddhism is hip and Catholicism is not. I listened to that Tibetan boy's statement in utter shock. It does matter what faith we teach our children! Non-truths spread in the name of religion are not harmless. Can you imagine my poor daughter Tess as a teenager saying "Man, I wish I hadn't sinned so much in an earlier life to merit getting a birth defect in this one!"

This week my Archdiocese celebrated "White Mass" the Mass for people with special needs. I'm reminded again and again that Christ had a special love for the disabled. Treating the suffering with compassion and seeing them as equal brothers in Christ is a unique marker of the Christian heart.