Look long enough to actually see…

March 27, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog had this quote today – “Everything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.”  (Gustave Flaubert)

Jack went on to write about staring contests and beginning to see things in common objects if one looks long enough. Our brains are wonderful at making connections and finding nuances within common objects, if we give it the chance to work long enough.

girl with nose chainIt occurred to me that the same thing applies to looking at people. Too often we look at someone without seeing them. We see a color or we see a hairstyle or we see a different way of dressing and we quickly look away without actually “seeing” the person that is there. There’s an old saying, “What you see is what you get”; but that saying requires that you actually see and not just look.

Did you look long enough to see the smile on the face of the person of color that you encountered? Did you see the twinkle in the eye of the girl with purple hair? After you looked at the bright colors of the outfit of that person, did you see the welcoming and friendly way they were holding themselves? Did you really see them or just look at them and jump to a conclusion?

Sometimes “seeing” the person may actually go beyond just looking. You might actuallyStephen_Hawking have to talk to them to “see” who they are. How many of us would have seen the genius in front of us if we just looked at Stephan Hawking sitting in his wheelchair? How many times have we looked at a special needs child and quickly looked away without seeing the real person that was there? Do we see and understand the person sitting on the corner begging for our help or just look at the bedraggled person there and turn away with a sense of pity and guilt.

Sometimes the things that mask the person that we look at prevent us from “seeing” the real person. Maybe we think that we don’t have the time to actually spend to see the person in front of us. A quick glance and a hastily drawn conclusion from that look is all that we can afford the time for. How sad that we don’t take the time to “see” and understand what and who we look at. It is truly our loss.

So, take the time and make the effort to see past the things that are there on your first look. Give your brain time to absorb more than that first glance can tell it. Hesitate and take in more before you draw a conclusion. Try to really see the person that is there and not just the stereotype that pops into your head based upon your first impression. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you see then.

There is another old saying that seems appropriate here. It is “Stop and smell the roses.” Maybe we also need to “Stop and see the person”. Have a great rest of the week.

I’ll be “seeing” you.

I can see clearly now…

March 5, 2016

“Don’t judge me unless you have looked through my eyes.”  (Lucy Heartfilia), which I saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s quote may be thought of as a variation of the old Native American proverb – Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I think it has a slightly different bent to it, because it focuses upon how we “see” the world and perhaps how we judge or pre-judge people whose different point of view causes them to react differently to the world around them. The fact is that all of us “see” the distorted viewworld differently because we look at it through the distortions caused by the “lenses” of our experiences and knowledge, our fears and prejudices, or our hope and optimism. Some people look at it through the dark lenses of depression. Others see nothing but rainbows through the rose colored glasses of optimism. Some may see danger lurking behind every bush and tree, while others see opportunities around every corner or behind every door.

The really hard part, which today’s quote alludes to, is for us to understand another person’s point of view – what they see – especially if they are significantly different from you. If you walk into a room filled with people who look like you, you might not
points of viewimmediately see danger in the situation; but walk into a room filled with the same number of people, but one in which they are all very different from you and you might see danger and threats. For most white Americans seeing a policeman approach may cause them to pause to think if they’ve done anything wrong; but, they don’t “see” it necessarily as being threatening. However, ask a resident of Ferguson, Missouri about that scenario and you’ll get a different answer. Perhaps that is because the eyes that they see that policemen through are filled with so many tears from the past.

Maybe it’s not the seeing that is really the problem; but, rather, the labels that we attached to what we see. Those labels are mental associations that we make. Some labels are based upon experiences from our past, but some just conjured up with no basis in facts or personal experiences. Many times those labels are broadly applied stereotypes that are bigot personbased upon prejudices or misinformation. We don’t stop to really “see” the person standing n from of us because we are blinded by the labels that flash up in our minds. Our ability to “see” the good, the beauty and the interesting things about that person are obscured by our proclivity to “see” only the things defined by the labels that we have already associated with them. Our vision has joined in the wider conspiracy that we call bigotry.

It is sometimes hard, but the first step to really seeing others is to clear the mind of all of the preconceptions that you might normally carry with you. You really can’t see clearly with your eyes until you are ready to “see” clearly with your mind. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be ready to take the next step and be able to begin to “see” things through their eyes too. At that point, you may discover that a new set of labels appear before your eyes; labels that are associated with them “seeing” you. That may not be a pretty thing to see either.

There is a song by Johnny Nash that inspired the title to today’s post. Although Nash’s lyrics didn’t call them labels he did call them obstacles that were in his way. Once they eye on worldwere removed he could see clearly and it was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Maybe if you can clear away the obstacles (labels) in your mind you will see more clearly, too; and you too will have a brighter day. Perhaps you’ll even be able to “see” things from the point of view of others and that will make your day and theirs better, too.

I’ll be seeing you.

What do you see?

August 25, 2015

“I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”  ―  Ashleigh Brilliant

What a great little quote; and how true. We all tend to “see” things through the lens of our beliefs. If they are bad digital thinkingor hateful beliefs, they are called prejudices. If they are good beliefs, they may be called optimism and sometime even Faith. Sometimes we see things through the lens of fear and they appear to be dark and foreboding. Sometimes we see things or people through eyes filled with love and they look wonderful and can do no wrong. Perhaps you are looking through eyes filled with tears, which makes everything a little blurry.

One point that Ashleigh makes in his quote is that maybe we don’t see things as they are but as we wish or believe them to be.  The old saw that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” seems to be based upon that thought. I suspect that what we choose not to see is sometimes as important what we see. A person with a positive and optimistic outlook on life may be able to look past many things as they seek to see the good in any situation or gloomy guyperson. Those who are negative in attitude will have no trouble finding bad things to see in life.

So, it seems that you have a choice in life to see what you believe in others and in life in general.  What do you see? Are you looking for the good or the bad in life? What lenses are you using to gaze at the world? Is your vision enhanced by your beliefs or does negativity dim your view. What about the visage that you provide for others? Is there a smile on your face? Is the person that they see someone that looks like it would be fun or interesting to know or someone to be avoided?  Make it easier for people to “see” you by making yourself more pleasant to look at – smile. If nothing else, they may see that smile and wonder what that is all about. Be ready to show them that what they saw is what you believe.happy going to work

So, like Ashleigh Brilliant, go out into the world today and see the things that you believe. It’s hiding in plain sight; so, it’s easy to see in people and events. Have a great and insightful day!

What do you see?

July 2, 2015

“Humans see what they want to see.”  (Rick Riordan)

That’s a provocative, but, oh so true, statement. It is perhaps the root of all prejudice that different people can look at the same thing or person and “see” two completely different things. It’s hard to imagine that the human eyes of those two people actually capture and process the image any differently. An apple would look the same to any two people, one must presume; and an orange would look noticeably different to both.

old layd young girlBut what Riordan is referencing is not the physical act of the eye capturing the image; but rather what the mind does to interpret that image – what our pre-conceived notions do to the image to distort it in our minds. We use the word “see” quite often to reference what we imagine (or “see”) in our minds eye. It’s as if we have a little Photoshop app in our minds that add things to the picture that our eye captured – layers and nuances- and then may distort  that image to either enhance it or make it ugly. So, what do you “see” in this graphic, which is perhaps the most famous optical illusion of all time. Do you see the young girl or the old lady or both?

Sometimes the surrounding environment or the setting can influence what we see. Sometimes the people that we may be looking at have gone to great lengths to fool us into seeing what they want us to see. Sometimes we combine things that we can physically see with things that are “suggested” to us to conjure up what we “see”. A great example is the recent ads that showed a hip-hop DJ who was cleaned up, dressed up and supplied with a few impressive sounding things to say about personal finances and placed in a professional looking office setting. He fooled everyone and they all “saw” him as a financial adviser that they would trust. I suppose the people who saw Bernie Madoff as someone to trust were fooled by what they saw, too.

At a day-to-day level, many people have developed a knack for not seeing the things in life that they don’t want to see. They can look passed that man on the street corner begging for food or a place to live. They
diverse hands look at an LGBT person or couple and their vision is clouded by fear and hate and they “see” only sin and unholy behavior (at least by their self-righteous standards). They look at a black person or a Hispanic and “see” only a criminals and drug dealers and welfare scofflaws (especially Donald Trump). If they don’t see someone who looks a lot like themselves then they don’t “see” people worthy of meeting and interacting with; perhaps they even see danger and ill intent where none exists.

It is our ability to add nuance and context from our own minds to what we physically see that can either visualizationenhance the picture or darken it. That is something that we must always be keenly aware of and vigilant to control. That is especially true in setting where the other people may have greatly different styles and manner of dress than us. Walk into a tattoo parlor and see what you “see”. How much of what you see in your mind’s eye prejudices you before the first word is spoken. Walk into a predominantly black or Hispanic bar or night club and see what your mind’s eye tells you about the clothes that you “see.” Are you really seeing things or is your own mind and your prejudices coloring the scene for you? You probably can’t see what you are missing by letting those prejudices control what you think you “see”.

It’s strangely appropriate that people will often use the expression “I see you completely differently, now”; once they have gotten past their initial prejudices and really taken the time to get to know the person that they initially saw as a threat or as someone to be avoided. I think that the phrase that we started with – Humans see what they want to see – needs our attention. We need to want to see; to really “see” the person that is standing in front of us and not just the mental image that we have conjured up out of our minds eye. To do that we must be more aware of that predisposition to allow things from our past color what we see now. It’s not easy. It takes conscious effort; but the effort is worth the reward of being able to cut through themen hugging layers of misunderstanding or misinformation and actually “see” who is really there.

The more that you try to do this – to really see without pre-judging – the easier it will get for you and the more you will find that you’ve been missing out on knowing some pretty interesting people because what you saw before had nothing to do with who they really are. As for the guy on the corner asking for help; the next time that you see him, think of it as if you were holding up a hand mirror and look that guy in the eye and see if you can as easily look straight through him. You don’t know his story and no one will know yours if you should end up there someday if they don’t “see” you. Maybe that will help you “see” things in a different light.

In the meantime; I’ll “see” you later.

Do you see what I see?

December 25, 2014

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  – Henry David Thoreau.

This time of year we hear a Christmas song with the question – Do you see what I see? I think Thoreau really had something in mind like that when he penned the line in today’s quote. One often hears in stories about crimes that police have eye witness reports that are all different, in other words the various people did not all see what the others saw. How can that be? Do you see what I see?

Without getting deeply existential about it, what we “see” when wedigital thinkinglook at something can be completely different than what another witness to the event saw, because we are both seeing it from different, personal perspectives. Perspective, in this case, is not about camera angles and instant replays; it’s really about how our life experiences and knowledge base filters and colors what we observe into what we “see.” That’s what the question is valid – Do you see what I see?

One witness at a shooting sees a man trying to surrender, while another sees the man making an aggressive move. Which is right? Maybe neither, since both are filtered and colored by the background of the observer. There are such great gulfs in cultures that a gesture made in greeting or friendship in one culture may be crowdtaken as threatening or disrespectful in another culture. Cross-cultural differences often result in awkward moments when decisions about whether to shake hands or give a hug are being pondered when someone new enters the room. I’ve experienced that a lot in family gatherings with our in-laws. They are from an eastern European background, where greetings with a hug and kiss are the norm. More than once I’ve been awkwardly expending a hand while they were approaching with open arms for a hug. We eventually get it right and I am more careful to watch now for their signals as to whether this will be a shake for a hug greeting. Do you see what I see?

But culture isn’t the only influence on what we “see” in our day-today living. The experiences that we’ve accumulated during our lives and the knowledge (hopefully wisdom) that we’ve built up also act as filters for what we see, hear and experience as we go along. There are saying about the loss of innocence as we grow up and that loss is because innocence (or ignorance, if you prefer) is supplanted by experience and knowledge. Some of that knowledge is based upon direct experiences, but quite a bit is based upon the experiences or knowledge of others that is passed down to us. Wetededy bears don’t have to experience a mauling by a real, live bear to “know” that the bear in the zoo is not the same cute and cuddly playmate that our first Teddy Bear was. We begin to “see” bears differently and we attach a certain caution about the potential danger when we observe them, especially if we ever saw them in the wild. Do you see what I see?

Unfortunately, not all of the “wisdom” that is passed between generations is good or even valid. We are not born with prejudices against people of certain color or ethnicity. Prejudice is something that we “learn” from the talk and actions of others (usually our parents and friends) and it impacts how we “see” the people that we have been conditioned to see differently. Are there caution flags that pop up in your mind when you see a person of a certain color or race? How did those get there? Do they always prove to be true? If not, of what use are they for you and how do you get rid of them? Do you see what I see?

It can take quite a bit of effort and time to retrain you mind so that it does not immediately attach false warnings or prejudices to the things that you observe – to see them differently.  A cute little article in the paper on Christmas Day focused upon a question from a child about the color of Santa Claus and an explanation santaused years ago on a TV show to explain how Santa can look like whatever he needs to look like to allow the observer to see what they what to see. Calling upon the magic of the season, the explanation given was that, as he came down the chimney into each house, Santa changed in ethnicity and color as was appropriate for that house. All the children just “saw” Santa. In this explanation, Santa was the perfect answer to the question – Do you see what I see?

But the real story of Christmas is about something that is impossible to observe with our eyes, but which can be seen if we look at it the right way. After all, how does one “see” pure love?  We may be able to observe the birth of a child, but not “see” the pure love of a God willing to sacrifice His only Son for the baby-boy-playing-with-his-footforgiveness of our sins. So, look past all of the decorations and the presents. Look beyond the trappings of the seasons and the staged events both secular and church-oriented. Peer deeply into the eyes of a newborn baby and “see” the pure and unadulterated love that is there. Do you see what I see?

What you “see” is what you get…

November 6, 2014

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  (Henry David Thoreau) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

We are a visually oriented society. We use phrases like, “see the inner beauty”, “I see where you’re going with that”, and “I can see you point of view.” Those all indicate things that can’t really be looked at, but which are “seen” in our minds eye. Thoreau’s little quote was talking about just such a thing.

We humans have the ability to look beyond the surface of what we see and “see” something different, perhaps deeper that women dreamingwhat appears on the surface.  In fact, sometimes we don’t have to look at something in order to “see” it. Love can’t be looked at, but you can “see it in someone’s eyes or how they interact with someone that they love. In the movie Avatar the phrase “I See You” took on added meaning, because for the creatures of that planet seeing one another went well beyond just looking at the other person. Mark Twain put it well when he said – “The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside didn’t indicate or promise, and which the other kind couldn’t detect.”

Do you look at people with a “seeing eye” or do you dwell upon their surface, studying their features, body, hair and such. What a pity to never really get to know them, if that is the case.

In the Jimmy Cliff song, “I can see clearly now,” the act of seeing takes on a more metaphysical meaning and relates to clearing away depression and dealing with life from a more positive point of view. Seeing is often associated with one’s perspective and that perspective may be influenced by many things, including one’s background and education. Two people can observe a destitute man/woman on the street; one may “see” a bum to be avoided and the other may “see” a fellow human being who needs their help. They will react differently to what they “see.”

Life’s challenges are oft “seen” in different ways too. Some cannot “see” past the challenge or “see” a solution to the butterfly 2problem; but for others the words of Jonathan Swift apply – “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” How’s your vision? Do you just see the problems and not the solutions? Open your eyes and your mind to the possibilities and think positively. You will “see” things in a different light – the light of positive thinking. Remember these words from Anais Nin – “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” You have the power to change your attitude and then the things that you see will change, too.

Look around you and ”see” the world as it can be for you and the people in it for who they really are. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru.


Open your eyes and “see”.