Being Able to See
Lisa M. Lipsett Ed. D.
is not the simple thing it is imagined to be. It has to do with
desire and possessiveness more than mechanical navigation, and
it entangles us in a skein of changing relations with objects
and people. In particular, vision helps us to know what we are
like: we watch versions of ourselves in people and objects, and
by attending to them we adjust our sense of what we are. Because
we cannot see what we do not understand or use or identify with,
we see very little of the world- only the small pieces that are
useful and harmless. Each act of vision mingles seeing with not
seeing, so that vision can become less a way of gathering information
than avoiding it." (Elkins, 1996: 201)
has lapsed into a fixed and "narrowed" mode of "single
vision" by means of the physical eye alone, which sees reality
as a multitude of isolated individuals in a dehumanized world.
(Evernden, 1993: 32
experience a new way of seeing while painting. I try not to distance
myself from the view or feel the need to tame or place it behind
fences and moats. For when the wild pattern that connects calls
me, I want to be sensitive enough to be able to hear it and strong
enough not succumb to the eyes that say, "but theres
ourselves to see beyond the surface gets us past the judging, naming
gatekeeper that, for me at least, lives in my eyes. We open to the
experience of the other senses, allowing their knowing to permeate
I was born very far-sighted (8.5 diopters). The muscles controlling
the lenses of my eyes are too weak to focus my view so without corrective
lenses I exist in a blurry world. My parents first wondered about
my vision when my eyes began to regularly cross; that was the first
signal that something was not right. Early on I went for eye training
that helped me to learn to not cross my eyes. That made me look
normal but I still could not see clearly. Ironically, when I cross
my eyes I can read, write and function quite well. In fact I went
through most of high school looking good by wearing glasses only
during class time. At 16, I went on a two week Spring break holiday
to Florida with a friend and never wore my glasses once.
I learned something about sight during my early years that I have
rediscovered only recently through painting. Not being able to see
the intricacies of fine detail opens me to the larger pattern. It
also opens me to movement within the pattern as I embrace the vibration
between the intricacies. I am not a pinpoint detail person. I am
a pattern seer, an over-viewer. I need the overview before I can
take in the fine details. I need a place to hang them. I need to
know their relationships to each other.
the last year Ive rediscovered the power of "blurry time".
I will now spend full days without my contacts in. I especially
enjoy doing this in the summer. I wear a loose sarong so that I
can feel the breeze on my body and I create with garden life. Or
I frolic in the water. I sometimes start my days by going for a
blurry run where I can see the shadows and light of the trees as
their leaves move in the breeze. I see trees in their wholeness
when Im in my blurry state. I also hear my breath and free
run in my sensory experience more fully. I feel smoother, more integrated,
less outward looking for cues and more inward focused as a result.
The boundaries between self and other become more transparent. Its
as though I stop looking for things to look at and instead focus
on feeling my way through interactions.
seem to get as easily tied in knots about the details of an activity
when Im in "blurry time". I seem to be able to more
easily lose my self in the process. If I explain to family and friends
what I am doing and how its not personal that Im not
looking them in the eyes (I cant see their eyes clearly),
then I feel my interaction with them also becomes flowing and smooth.
They know that Im not watching them, they feel the freedom
of invisibility somehow and I also feel less preoccupied by their
presence. I cant see them so they arent really there
in a judgmental kind of way. We are both freer to do as we please
and be who we are.
Strange how my far-sightedness is seen as a medical problem that
needs to be corrected. Wearing glasses as a young girl made me feel
ugly and self-conscious. I wasnt able to do gymnastics with
the same gusto as my sisters because I couldnt really see
enough to be safe. I felt awkward and a bit ashamed of the big eyes
emerging from behind the rims. In order to see what everybody else
was seeing I had to wear corrective lenses. What I saw without them
was not right. What would have happened to me if I was born before
the dawn of written text and corrective lenses? I guess Id
have lived happily in "blurry time" not realizing that
what I saw was any different from what everyone else was seeing.
experienced a deep resonate kind of seeing during "blurry time".
Its a sensing, a harmonizing that makes my pupils, my retinas,
my contacts obsolete, superfluous, really unnecessary. In fact they
can get in the way.
interesting about seeing things. To need to see things to know what
they are, as opposed to hearing them or smelling them is very powerful
for us. The power of our eyes to decide what the world is, can make
for us because we dont trust our bodies, our hearts. The eyes
seem to be so tied to the intellect. Visual acuity can actually
cause me to doubt what my night vision, my "blurry time",
my night sensing is really telling me.
two sometimes compete for center stage, for the title of truth bearer.
They out shout each other, jostle with their elbows, trip, spit
and pummel. They duke it out, defend their turf and say, "look
again, youve got it all wrong". Like a bickering couple
whose words are not reaching each other, whose languages are different
and denote radically opposing ways of encoding the world, they astonish
each other with the void that exists between them. Cornered, each
in their separate place they do the dance of particle and wave.
Usually he says, "I see the truth of the matter. Its
clear. Im observing from a distance, Im objective, I
know whats real. While I have sympathy for your impressions,
as heartfelt as they are, ultimately I know the truth because I
am separate. I can see the simplicity. Im not confused, clouded
by my feelings and sense abilities. Everything is simple and clear.
Get a grip, get a hold of yourself, you move all over the place,
youre so up and down. Why try and muddy the picture by making
things more complex than they really are? Be rational!"
says, "I feel the complexity of things, I sense it in my body.
My head races, my gut aches, my palms sweat in response to all that
youve just said. I hear you in my cells. I dont want
to pin things down, divide them up, compartmentalize, I dont
have a position.
I move, I cycle like a wave, like a breeze across a wheat field.
I undulate, I float, I dive down to the dark depths and pop back
up again just as quickly. I inhale life into my body, I feel the
breath in my cells, I take it all in, I always have. My knowing
comes from the past, the present and the future. The first beings
to climb out of the primordial muck onto land are me, just as the
eagle who soars above is also me. Its all me hearing you tell
me its all so simple".
night and day they are joined at the hip. Like siamese twins they
must learn to co-operate with each other. She feels she has a solution.
"You just cant have it your way all the time. I can no
longer stand to be defined relative to you. That privileges your
viewpoint. The way it stands now, together we are a two-sided coin,
you are heads and Im not heads. I become defined by your absence
as though there is you and then everything else that is not you.
Instead I want to be joined to you and be "tails" simultaneously.
I dont want to be the unseen to your seen, the invisible to
your visible, the unconscious to your conscious, or the irrational
to your rational. I am the implicate to your explicate, the wave
to your particle, the whole to your part, the space to your place,
and the feminine to your masculine. We complement each other in
a dance of harmonious union, with you within me and me within you
J. (1996) The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing,
New York: Simon and Schuster
N. (1993) The Natural Alien: Humankind and the Environment,
(2nd. Edition) Toronto: University of Toronto Press