"Ways of Seeing:" Session No. 8 -- readings from chapter 8, "Choosing the World"

Opening words:

We must see the world as scientists, but first as lovers.  Growing up in a world fearful of mystery, we’ve fallen out of the habit, and must relearn it.  We must love the world with a child’s love for its parents, a love immediate and unreserved, no matter that the world gives us both blueberries and the black flies that torment us as we pick them.  We must love the world with a love of a mother or father for her or his two-year-old child, the one with the scabby knees and runny nose and the lungs of a future opera singer running toward us now with whatever gob of creationwasp nest or wisteria or wormit has clutched in its gleeful fist.  We must love the world as new lovers do one another, as if to be in the beloved’s presence is to walk through a world made newly luminous, finding that every ordinary gesturethe way he drops his car keys on the table, the way she raises a cup to her lipsis holy and part of a sacred dance.  Mystic vision is a lover’s vision, and despite the pain love brings, to see the world through a lover's eyes is already to have chosen it. 

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards):

1.  Describe a time in your life, whether in childhood or more recently, when you saw something for the first time, or learned to see differently.

2.  Describe something about the space where you are right now that you haven't noticed before, or haven't seen in quite the same way.


1.  What does it mean to see the world "scientifically" or "objectively"?  How do you do this?

2.  Why do you see the world differently at different times?  Give an example from your life. What caused you to see something in a new way?

3.  When has the world appeared full of mystery and wonder to you?  Was that a good experience, or scary, or both?  Why?

4.  What would it mean for you to experience the world as mysterious -- full of mystery and wonder -- all the time?  Could you function in such a state?

5.  What would it mean for you to observe the world always in purely objective or scientific terms?  What would be gained? What would be lost?

6.  Is there a way for you to balance "mystic" and "scientific" vision in your life?

Closing words:

Our responsibilities to the world are many and complex, yet they seem to begin in the simple yet arduous act of seeing the world and responding—renewing our promise—to it. I sometimes imagine that if the creator of the universe wanted to take another shot at communicating what was most important, she might replace all of sacred scripture with the words “Pay Attention!” To choose the world means first of all to see it clearly, to shed fantasy and habit, to look, and look again, to let ourselves be broken open by its intricacy and its mystery.