Knowledge plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives. It’s facts, information, and skills that are obtained by a person through experience and education. Annie Dillard and Sven Birkerts explore the theory of knowledge, otherwise known as epistemology in their essays “Seeing” and “The Owl Has Flown.” The knowledge we gain contributes to the outcome of our lives, but only we can come to that conclusion with how we interpret this knowledge.
In Annie Dillard’s Essay “Seeing” she describes her beliefs about how people become aware of their knowledge and how the proper perception can provide someone with a greater understanding and appreciation of the world we live in. This appreciation and understanding of knowledge is her answer how to live a fortunate and meaningful life. Dillard supports her beliefs by telling the story of when she was a small child she used to hide pennies leaving a trail of clues for people to find them. “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited about a mere penny” (Dillard, 39)? When someone sees a sign that says MONEY THIS WAY they are expecting at least a couple dollars not a single penny. (Dillard, 40) After reading this I found it strange as to why anyone would be disappointed for only finding a penny. Yes, they probably got their hopes up hoping to find a million dollars, but shouldn’t the fact that someone was thinking of them hoping for them to smile be enough? People are let down and disappointed in reality because they are expecting to see what they want to see. They are not walking into a situation open minded appreciative of whatever they will find. Growing up we are constantly learning as children, but those who are truly knowledgeable continue to learn throughout the rest of their lives. This allows them to keep discovering new ways to view the world and also allows them to keep an open mind and open eye to their surroundings because nature and life is a rather now you see it now you don’t affair (Dillard, 40).Order now
The truly knowledgeable see in an artificial obvious way, seeing what you don’t expect to see, rather than natural obvious, seeing what you expect to see (Dillard, 42). “As soon as you can forget the natural obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer.” Dillard supports this idea through her story of the bullfrog. She tells the story about the unexpectedly large frog that she could not point out. Her peers could see the frog in the distance, but she could not so finally she asks, “What color am I looking for?” Her peers tell her the color of the frog is green. After she finally spotted it she realized it wasn’t green at all, but a more wet hickory bark color. Dillard couldn’t find the frog right off the back because she was expecting to find a green frog. I find it interesting as to why our minds find it normal to look for things that are natural to us. Why is it that it’s not natural to seek out abnormal instead? If you open your mind and let yourself think in a way that’s unnatural to you, then you will start to notice the little unnoticed things in life. This knowledge allows you to truly see and observe the world around you and seeing is a key concept to happiness and success. Seeing allows us to not only open our minds but also open our hearts. Its not how much information you know that makes you knowledagble its how you obtained that information and what you make of it afterwards.
Birkerts describes epistemology in our flaws of reading extensively . “From the Middle Ages until sometime after 1750, according to Engelsing, men read “intensively.” They had only a few books-the Bible, an almanac, a devotional work or two-and they read them over and over again, usually aloud and in groups so that a narrow range of traditional literature became deeply impressed on their consciousness” (Birkerts, 30). Those who know little can still be knowledgeable. “In our culture access is not the problem, but proliferation is. And the reading act is necessarily different than it was in its earliest days. Awed and intimidated by the availability of texts, faced with the all but impossible task of discriminating among them, the reader tends to move across surfaces, skimming, hastening from one site to the next without allowing the words to resonate inwardly” (Birkerts, 31). In the earlier days people only had a small selection of books to choose from, but they read the books they had thoroughly, and acquired in depth knowledge from each book. Because these men spent hours on end reading these same books over and over again page by page they sincerely understood the story being told. Birkerts explicates clearly that in present time we read extensively, otherwise known as reading horizontally. We pick up a book, skim across it lightly, and move on to next because we have the option to do so now. Because we skim across reading material were not fully gaining any knowledge. We read it and file it away in our brain unsolved like a cold case. There’s no outcome as to what we can do with this knowledge because in order to make something of it you have to understand it.
Dillard’s theory of natural obvious and artificial obvious merges with Birkerts idea of reading intensively and extensively. Reading extensively is just another way at unsuccessfully seeing in an artificial obvious way. By skimming across what we read not taking in the information thoroughly we read in a natural obvious way. We pick parts and pieces we seem to find intuitive, but by doing this we gain no knowledge. By reading intensively we read in an artificial obvious way. We read the material over and over again open-minded and notice the true message hidden within the words. From there you can go on and use your knowledge to obtain success.
By reading intensively we have a greater chance at using the knowledge we gain to achieve a favorable outcome. “For how we receive information bears vitally on the ways we experience and interpret reality” (Birkerts, 31). Think of it like a math test for example. If you practice for your test once the likelihood of you passing is slim, but if you study your material over and over again until you’ve completely know how to get everything right you’re likely to pass with flying colors. This example leads to my disagreement with Birkerts. He believes that since we do have a larger selection of reading material that reading intensively is practically extinct. This seems to mean what he basically describes, we glance at a book and move on to the next because we have the option to do so, but it could also mean that we seek out other information because the previous does not live up to our standards. I can tell you that I’ve read many series of books multiple times and pretty much know them like the back of my hand. I believe that it’s not the amount of books we have that determines whether we read intensively or extensively but the book itself and how it personally collides with us as an individual.
Throughout Annie Dillard essay “Seeing” and Sven Birkerts essay “The Owl Has Flown” both authors brilliantly inform us how epistemology affects our lives. Whether it’s seeing and gaining knowledge naturally or artificially, or whether it reading intensively or extensively, all that matters is what we as individuals make of it. Only you can choose your outcome. Only you can choose to open your mind, and only you can learn from it. Life will flash by in the blink of an eye. There is no time to waist not truly understanding and appreciating the world we live in. Life is a day-to-day journey and you should live each and every one as if it was your last. So take the time to read that book at least one more time, even if you don’t like so that one day that knowledge you gain can help you later in life. And the next time you seek out something you can’t find, stop looking for what your looking for and it just might appear.
Birkerts, Sven. “The Owl Has Flown.” Think Vertically! Southlake: Fountainhead, 2012. 29-36.
Dillard, Annie. “Seeing.” Think Vertically! Southlake: Fountainhead, 2012. 39-55. Print.