Dr. Patterson helped me to 'see'

| | Comments (0)

"But the artificial obvious is hard to see.  My eyes account for le than one percent of the weight of my head; I'm bony and dense; I e what I expect.  I once spent a full three minutes looking at a bullfrog that was so unexpedly large I coulnd't see it even though a dozen enthusiastic campers  were outing directions. Finally I asked, "What color am I looking for?" and a fellow said, "Green." 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 (Annie Dillard 3019)."

For my American Lit. class (1915-present), we had to read a piece by Annie Dillard entitled Pilgram at Tinker Creek.  For those of you that don't know, Annie Dillard was a local from Pittsburgh, so automatically, people from this area can feel some type of bond and relation to her. The piece that we read could be compared to something by Emerson and Thoreu, to which Dillard actually acknowledges in her story.  She is fascinated with nature and the world around her, and tries to escape the complications of everyday thinking.  The main point of this piece would be that because we are so focused on the obvious, that we are missing the true meaning behind everything.

For example, the quote above explains this perfectly.  When we think of a frog, immediatly we are inclined to say that it is green.  When in reality, how many frogs have we seen in life that are just plain, straight up green?  I liked that she compared this delima to what painters are up against because it's absolutlely true.  If an artist just painted a green frog, you would be like ok nothing different.  Just an ordinary, everyday frog.  But if the artists tried to capture the color mixed with mud, grass, water, and blood, then we would see the piece actually come to life.  It's the arfical obvious.  We construst what we believe is obvious, or well known, when we should be looking past that.

After briefly discussing this in class, Dr. Patterson decided to try an experiment and take us outside in front of Admin. to observe nature, meditate, and try to 'see.'  We walked outside in complete silence, and tried to empty our minds of all thoughts and emotions and simply get lost in nature. One of my classmates noticed that it looks as  the trees were constucted out of different material / bark, and another noticed the vast amount of action going on in a small area of the ground (with special attention to the ants).  Sounds crazy, but I noticied that one of the trees really looked like the main tree out of Sleepy Hollow where the headless horsemen jumps out of.  The fact of the matter is, is that we limit ourselves to what we are allowed to see. I learned and noticied so much more about nature and the place that I was in, simply because I opened by mind to it. It really was a great experiment, and it helped me to understand Annie Dillard's perspective a lot more.

So why do we focus on the obvious? Is it because as a society, we are so focused on time and getting ahead that we don't take time to appreciate the little things?  Is it because some people have it and some people don't? Or is it because we are trained to only see the obvious?  I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this topic!

I know my initail reaction was a response to the left brain, right brain way of thinking.  For example, I'm an English Literature and Art History major so when I look at a painting my brain goes in a thousand different ways.  Is there symbolism?  Is this a genre painting with a metaphorical meaning? Is the tenebrism used to portray an emotion?  So I'm getting all of this out of the painting, and then my math/science thinking brother is like "Steph, I'm pretty sure that you're making all of that up.  There is no way that that is all in that painting."  So maybe we do just limit ourselves.  I'm not saying that just because I can analyze art that I have the ability to 'see' everything, but I think that you really have to open your mind to what you want to see, or you won't be able to see it.  Understanding and feeling the subject as a whole, is so much more powerful than just seeing it and focusing on the obvious.

Leave a comment


Type the characters you see in the picture above.