Posts tagged ‘seeing’

March 26, 2012

sees the world rightly

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (ending with the significant number seven and calling for silence regarding things that can only be seen):

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.

7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

[Note: Wittgenstein’s confidence in the abilities of language to portray reality is largely restored later in life as this passage indicates.]

September 7, 2011

he came softly, unobserved

He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, every one recognized Him. That might be one of the best passages in the poem. I mean, why they recognized Him. The people are irresistibly drawn to Him, they surround Him, they flock about Him, follow Him. He moves silently in their midst with a gentle smile fo infinite compassion. The sun of love burns in His heart, light and power shine from His eyes, and their radiance, shed on the people, stirs their hearts with responsive love. He holds out his hands to them, blesses them, and a healing virtue comes from contact with Him, even with His garments. An old man in the the crowd, blind from childhood, creis out, “O Lord, heal me and I shall see Thee!” and, as it were, scales fall from his eyes and the bland man sees Him.

From the opening of “The Grand Inquisitor,” a story told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

August 16, 2011

for now

For now treat the Scripture of God as the face of God. Melt in its presence.

From a sermon by Augustine, cited by Robert Louis Wilken in The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God on pages 50 and 76.

July 28, 2011

stand in the glow of ripeness

Love

Czesław Miłosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart.
Without knowing it, from various ills –
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Thanks to Hallie for singling out this poem. I owe thanks to a common friend for my small enjoyment of poetry. It is good to read more by Miłosz.

July 19, 2011

a girl stood before him

A girl stood before him in midstream: alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed in the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird.

Yesterday’s Beatrice image, brought to mind many others. This one is from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (near the end of chapter IV).

Just after deciding not to become a priest, Stephen Dedalus has a (secular) vision of Mary, incarnate as this young girl by the sea. He sees all the beauty of his homeland in her and begins his quest for exile as a poet of Ireland. His vision is epiphanic and humanizing, although it draws him away from his Catholic faith. I quote only a brief opening line because so much of the passage requires the broader context of the story and surrounding imagery.

July 18, 2011

my eye beheld true magic and majesty

This wordless, 14-minute short is well worth several viewings. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore displays desolation and beauty with a magic and majesty of its own.


July 5, 2011

all leaves have been woven

No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept “leaf” is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions; and now it gives rise to the idea that in nature there might be something besides the leaves which would be “leaf”—some kind of original form after which all leaves have been woven, marked, copied, colored, curled, and painted, but by unskilled hands, so that no copy turned out to be a correct, reliable, and faithful image of the original form.

“On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” by Friedrich Nietzsche (1873)

We’ll be enjoying sand grains, rocks and waves on the Maine cost today, and I can never enjoy the vast array of particulars without thinking of Nietzsche’s passion for them.

June 30, 2011

charged with the task of visiting other cities

The word “theory” comes from the ancient Greek word theorein, meaning “to see.”

…Over time, it came to describe a special and intensified form of “seeing” in the Greek world. Certain designated city officials— theoroi—were charged with the task of visiting other cities, to “see” events such as religious or theatrical or athletic festivals, and to return to their home city, where they would then give an account of what they had seen. To “theorize” was to take part in a sacred journey, an encounter with the “other” in which the theorist would attempt to comprehend, assess, compare, and then, in the idiom of his own city, explain what had been seen to his fellow citizens. This encounter would inevitably raise questions about the customs or practices of the theorist’s own city. Why do we do things this way? Might there be a better way of organizing the regime? Might there be a best way of life that is not our way? This tension between the theorist’s role as critic and the city’s imperative to protect its way of life is deeply embedded in the history and the practice of political theory.

Patrick J. Deneen in “Patriotic Vision: At Home in a World Made Strange” from The Intercollegiate Review (Spring 2002), pp. 34-35.

June 24, 2011

by it I see everything

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

From C.S. Lewis’ essay “Is Theology Poetry?” (1945). I had the humbling experience of hearing John Lennox speak several times during the past couple of days, and he closed his last address with a slight restatement of this quote. It’s from an essay that I have not read, but the quote itself was one of several standout lines from the past couple days.

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June 20, 2011

delight of the eye

Another passage from Wilken:

When speaking of how God is known early Christian thinkers favored the metaphor of seeing, not hearing. In his response to Celsus, Origen cites a series of biblical texts that have to do with seeing: “Blessed are the pure in spirit for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8); “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jo. 14:9); and “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). From these he draws the conclusion that people come to know the “Father and maker of this universe by looking at the image of the invisible God.” Beauty is the corollary of seeing. In the Scriptures many of the key terms used of God’s self-disclosure, words such as glory, splendor, light, image, and face, have to do with the delight of the eye. When we speak of the pleasure the eye takes in what it sees the term that comes to mind is beauty. The psalmist wrote, “One thing have I asked of the Lord … that I will behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4).

As early as the second century the apologist Athenagoras of Athens included the term beauty in a list of words depicting God. The God we set before you, he says, is “encompassed by light, beauty, spirit, and indescribable power.” In his commentary on the Song of Songs Origen wrote that the “soul is moved by heavenly love and longing when it beholds the beauty and the comeliness of the Word of God.” God’s revelation can be seen from the perspective of its ineffable beauty as well as of its truth and goodness.”  (p. 20)

This point is central to the thesis of Wilken’s book (The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God) and shows how the medieval triad of goodness, beauty and truth started to be understood as three modes of knowing God and his revelation.

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