The Difference Between Seeing and Seeing

The Buddha once said, "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."

As post-modern screen viewers are we ever really experiencing a "deficit" of nature? Or are we simply not seeing it?

Here is a thoughtful reflection on the nature of seeing from The School of Life blog.


“There is a difference between seeing and seeing” wrote Goethe, and “no one who is attentive will ever find nature dead and silent”.

On Goethe’s reading of the relationship between us and the natural world, the way we actually see - that is, the attentive character of our conscious awareness - marks an index of our sense of disconnection. If we don’t look properly, we just won’t feel it. In fact in logical terms, we cannot actually have a nature deficit. We are in nature, part of it. It constitutes us. Yet the feeling of disconnection is pervasive, and the tidal sense of displacement and distance is a common one. The suspicion that we are living somehow at one remove from reality leads many of us out into the great outdoors - to seek a deep breath of dawn breeze, or the panorama from a hilltop, or a brief late evening vision of countless stars, toothbrush drooping as we briefly lose ourselves. If we feel disconnected from nature, we can always get out into it. Yet Goethe suggests we do the reverse. Seeking a sense of connection with nature is not just about us getting out, but about each of us letting nature in; seeing.

...So if you seek a sense of connection with the natural world, try this: set aside your categories, types and classifications next time you look away from your screen, step outside or turn your gaze from a friend’s face to the middle distance across a grassy park, and pause. Put your thinking mind on hold, and take the time to let something actually into your mind: pick a leaf, one blade of grass, or take a pinch of soil on your palm, and actually let it into your mind. Have your conscious awareness range over the landscape of its surfaces, drink in its detail. Forget anything you have ever learnt, every word you have ever said, and just see. As a species we can be good at looking, Goethe pointed out, and if we take the time to actually give looking the time of day, patiently and undistracted, then simply seeing can be a way of being.