Observe

by Tom Swift

It is important to name things correctly. It is easy to infer, hard to know. Do not state that you know something to be true if you are not certain. Certainty is seldom found in this world. Even if you think you know what you just saw.

We see so much in our age! Everything, it seems, is captured on video. In a matter of moments you can view a painting on your wall, footage from a crime scene miles away, a scene from a sitcom from your youth, and the sun streaming between the branches of the red maple in your backyard. As you take in these images your eyes do what eyes do. You do not have to ask your eyes to collect images; they just do. You do not, in fact, have to think at all about what you are seeing but it is advised that you do so. For our eyes are at once both miracles and also conduits to a complex system human wiring that unwittingly trains us to insert interpretations at rapid speed. Never forget that these automatic interpretations are not necessarily accurate or appropriate.

Our first impressions can be wrong. They are often wrong. They are wrong because they are clouded by things wholly unrelated to the matter in view — our histories, our needs, our moods, our want for the world to be a certain way. Our impressions are also wrong because our eyes are limited in their scope. You do not get to see all. Or really even close to most.

It seems strange to say but it is hard work to see something, to really see it. There’s a lot to filter out of the picture.

This morning your dog went out to do his business before the first light of day. You could see his silhouette in the yard, leg cocked, body tilted like a small plane coming in crooked, for several seconds. In the instant he finished the motion light on the garage clicked on. You could see he was looking back at you the whole time. Then he ran back to the house and bounded up the steps to where you opened the door for him. You just observed him do this. You didn’t think of the coffee you might have or the temperature today or grabbing the doggy mitt you use to clean his paws or the next thing you were to do in the precious early hour of the day. You just watched him do what he does, what he did do, without trying to make anything of the moment.

There is much to be said for this.