In the world of science there are many discoveries. “A discovery is like falling in love and reaching the top of a mountain after a hard climb all in one, an ecstasy not induced by drugs but by the revelation of a face of nature … and that often turns out to be more subtle and wonderful than anyone had imagined.” (Ferdinand Puretz). Most people in the world we live in lack to notice and or appreciate the gift of sight in life. By not cherishing the gift of sight and using it properly, many discoveries are left unfound. In the writing piece, Seeing, Annie Dillard speaks of nature and the small things that we all are unconsciously blind to and not appreciative of. Seeing explores the idea of what it means to truly see things in this world. Annie Dillard’s main point is that we should view the world with less of a meddling eye, so that we are able to capture things that would otherwise go unnoticed. There’s a science to how we view things in nature. Dillard attempts to persuade her reader to adopt to her way of seeing, which is more artificial rather than natural.Order now
From one end, what we see right away tends to be the natural obvious. We notice these things right away because they are in plain sight and we are used to seeing them every day without thinking or analyzing what we perceive. For example, the grass is green and the sky is blue. Dillard speaks of a time where she saw a frog and because of the surroundings it was in and its appearance it was hard for her to recognize it for what it was. Dillard described, “I once spent a full three minutes looking at a bullfrog that was so unexpectedly large I couldn’t see it even though a dozen enthusiastic campers were shouting directions… When at last I picked out the frog, I saw what painters are up against; the thing wasn’t green at all, but the color of wet hickory bark” ( 114). It’s universally assumed that frogs are green. When something is viewed different from expectation or norm, it is harder to perceive. We succumb to only viewing the natural obvious. To view life and nature this way, so many discoveries are lost or missed out on.
Sometimes even seeing analytically can still be in the way of exploring how to truly see things in this world. Analytical seeing can be somewhat ineffectual. From one of her experiences, Dillard describes, “When I see this way I analyze and pry. I hurl over logs and roll away stones; I study the bank a square foot at a time, probing and tilting my head” (122). Even though she is seeing analytically, covering foot by foot at a time, she is still missing out on some small things. If you’ve ever had a dog, you’ve probably noticed that when you talk to them they tend to tilt their head to the side. Why do you think this is? Well, in making a connection with Annie Dillard’s piece, Seeing, I believe it has to do with vision. Dogs continually scan our faces for information in attempt to read our emotional state. (Probably to help understand if we are happy or upset with them). Dogs tilt their head so that they can analyze. Now, imagine gazing into a field of sunflowers. The previous night there was a rain storm. The wind starts to blow and the flowers start to sway side to side. Tilt your head. Analyze. What do you see? Maybe you start to notice a pattern in the sway of flowers and the colors of yellow brown and green intertwining, but I doubt you’ll notice the drop of rain fall from one of the petals and slide down one blade of grass of millions. To see this way, you must see beyond the natural obvious and you must not analyze. You must see artificially. Even better, you must let go.
The eyes must be disciplined to notice the artificial obvious. By looking at every little detail of something, we open our eyes to so much more. From White’s chapter, The Mountain, Dillard mentioned a quote of his, “As soon as you can forget the naturally obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer” (144). When you look beyond what’s always expected you will notice the hardly expected or grasp the unexpected and you will appreciate more. There was a time where Dillard took steps to look beyond plain sight. In her effort, she described, “Often I slop some creek water in a jar and when I get home I dump it in a white china bowl. After the silt settle I return and see tracings of minute snails on the bottom, a planarian or two winding around the rim of the water, roundworms shimmying frantically, and finally when my eyes have adjusted to these dimensions, amoebae” (118). Seeing is not an act in itself, but relies on the interpretation of visual information. Annie focused her eyes to realizing that there in the china bowl was more than just creek water, there were things beyond.
The best experience of seeing is letting go.
When Dillard walks with a camera she walks “shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter” (122); this represents the natural obvious. At first, looking through a lens, she only sees what’s expected framing the shot she wants to capture rather than entrapping all the small details. When she walks without a camera her own “shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my silver gut. When I see this way I am above all an unscrupulous observer” (122) and she is able to see many details, notice the small things, and there’s the idea of the parts that make up a whole rather than one blocked focus. She desires to stress to her reader that they should take a step back and view everything in the world with a broader mind. Only then can they be an unscrupulous observer and therefore catch the small details that would be invisible to a more natural and analytical eye. Allow yourself to drift back to the field of sunflowers. Take a moment and close your eyes. Listen to your surroundings. The flowers are brushing together in the wind. Notice the buzzing of insects. Feel the thickness of the air and the warmth of the sun. Open your eyes. What do you see now, the moment the darkness is gone and finally there is light?
When someone lives in darkness they rely on touch and hearing. The blind tend to be more of an unscrupulous observer than the average seeing person. Blind people who gain their sight later on in life share roughly the same experience as new born babies who open their eyes for the first time when they enter the world. Once they gain meaning and vision all that seems to change. “If we are blinded by darkness, we are also blinded by light”, Dillard quoted this from van Gogh. (116). We don’t perceive everything in the world as we should because we accept too many basic meanings in understanding what an object is. Everything we see has already been internally verbalized in our thoughts. After reading one of the books she came across, Dillard saw color-patches for weeks. She was enlightened. For a short time she was able to go back to the years of infancy, of new sight, and look at the world differently in a better way. Eventually all that faded. Unfortunately, “the color-patches of infancy swelled as meaning filled them; they arrayed themselves in solemn ranks down distances which unrolled and stretched … now in a world of shadows that shape and distance color, a world where space makes a kind of terrible sense” (121).An ability that used to be so easy to use at a young or new learning age becomes the hardest to grasp once more when we accept meaning and settle for the natural obvious.
Although many of us can see, we are still blind in away. Its unfortunate the average person is blind to many discoveries that are surrounding them or right in front of them. In Annie Dillard’s words, “Everywhere darkness and the presence of the unseen appalls…we rock, cradled in the swaddling band of darkness.” There are many small details that are only visible to the unscrupulous observer. When the obstacle of narrow-sightedness is overcome, there is more of a chance to capture such great discoveries. People need to realize that if they never take the time to stop and look around, appreciate the small things in life, they might miss out on important details and or moments that the world has to offer. Scientist didn’t obtain their greatest discoveries by looking at the world with a closed mind. During the months of September through Novemeber, the leaves start to fall off the trees. It is obvious its fall, but what else is occurring? Gravity. Albert Einstein discovered gravity by watching and ordinary object fall. At that moment he became a scientific unscrupulous observer.
Dillard, Annie. “Seeing.” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. N.P.: HarperCollins, 1974. 110-27. Print.
Ferinad Puretz, Max. ‘True Science’, Review of Peter Medawar, Advice to a Young Scientist. N.p.: n.p., 1980. Print.