“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” Tolstoy.
The poet Mary Oliver looks so intensely into things that she somehow detects their essence; she notices Nature’s details and rejoices in the beauty around her, sensing the existence of ‘angels’ within:
“Forgive Me” by Mary Oliver
Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.
It’s what I sense in the mud and the roots of the
trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with
its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and
makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some
spirit, some small god, who abides there.
If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing
I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this
holiness, which is why I’m so often late coming
back from wherever I went.
Blue Horses, 2014, Penguin Press.
Image: Dove Angel. ©Linda Berman.
Inspired by Oliver’s poetry and having written several posts about death and the end of life, I felt impelled to look around me, at the beauty of the life I have, and the life we all have.
How much do we remember to do this, to take in our surroundings? Our looking is, at best partial; it is almost impossible to see everything.
This post represents an interlude, a meditation, a concentration on looking and seeing.
The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone. Johann von Goethe
Could Looking At The World Be A Constant Two-Way Process?
We have all said these words in shops when approached by an assistant, I am sure.
Elkins examines the meaning of the words ‘just looking, ‘ in a way that implies that just looking is actually like hunting, searching.
A little like Mary Oliver, he feels that objects are imbued with an energy of their own, all actively trying to ‘catch’ his eye. It is as if looking is a two-way phenomenon; this is an unusual way of seeing. He perceives that ‘The world is full of eyes, and sight is everywhere.”
Seeing and Knowing.
The connection between seeing and knowing is an interesting one. So many times, we miss things, or hardly notice them, because we do not know about them. We have to know how to look.
Could Leonardo da Vinci have drawn such wonderful figures without his anatomical knowledge? How much of what he drew was based on this knowledge as well as his visual perception?
Leonardo da Vinci. Studi Anatomici 1504-06. Wikimedia Commons.
Leonardo himself thought that –
“The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.”
“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”
“Look closely. The beautiful may be small.” Emmanuel Kant
“I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.”
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell others.”Mary Oliver
As well as ways of thinking, there are ways of looking.
How much of life have I missed, he wondered, simply by failing to look? Or by looking and not seeing?
Irvin D. Yalom
“Sometimes with art, it is important just to look.”Marina Abramović
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”– Marcel Proust“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”Henry David Thoreau
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius
‘Beauty surrounds me daily. I learn to take notice.’ Buddhist saying.