Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seeing Vs. Observing

Seeing Vs. Observing
I use my eyes to see and observe the world around me. Seeing is about more than just what the eye records: it is about knowing, feeling, and understanding. When I am truly seeing something, whether it is a sunset or the way the branches of the Gary oaks seem to frame the view of the sky, I feel a holistic understanding of the scene or object. I become engaged with it: I can sense it’s weight, texture, what it is made of, and how it works. Seeing becomes a type of empathy with the world and objects around me: I begin to feel as I am a part of it. Aside from meditating or the act of repetitive motion, drawing is a tool that I can use to see the world. It uses a different part of the brain than the one used while observing. 

I observe the street signs while I’m on the bus. I take in this information so that I can tell whether or not I’m going to the right way or how far I am from my stop. I acknowledge that there are other passengers around me. I could tell you if the person sitting next to me was wearing a jacket but I could not describe it’s singularity to you, its folds and wrinkles. When I am observing the world, I am taking in the symbols of my environment and not each individual stimulus. If I did, the influx of information and sensations would probably overwhelm my senses. My brain has developed this buffer so I can function in this world. It hinders my ability to see and understand beyond the codified label my brain gives to things but without it, I would not be able to perform the mundane tasks needed to survive.


Sky Pape said...

The "buffer" you describe actually has a name: "sensory gating," using the term "gate" quite literally to describe closing the gate on excess stimuli to help one function better and not get overwhelmed. When it doesn't work, it can be a big problem, as it is for many who suffer from schizophrenia. Artists' awareness and attention to stimuli (having a fairly "open gate") can be advantageous and important to one's work, but filtering is still critical. It makes me wonder if this has something to do with the perception some hold that there's a fine line between being creative and being crazy? The brain's workings are indeed fascinating and mysterious!

Pete Kohut said...

Our brains are indeed mysterious wonders! Thanks for the insightful post!