Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

facing outward

"Fluidity and discontinuity are central to the reality in which we live"-Mary Catherine Bateson

I'm looking at a photograph of Caspar David Friedrich's 1822 painting "Woman at the Window". Her back is turned to the perspective from which we view her. We can see over her shoulder and over her head only the bare outlines of what she sees. She is looking outdoors, perhaps from above. We cannot see her face.

Do you ever wonder what it is that the metaphoric "them people" see? I think that novels teach us, if nothing else, that we all see many things the same, and many things entirely differently.

Art and poetry teach us that if we were one huge insect, we'd see like insects do, with thousands of little cells in our eyes. We could see in so many directions, if we could all blend our visions somehow. Each part of the mosaic, connected, and yet exotic.

Did you ever spend time with someone who said "I feel so alone now"? It's a difficult thing, to be a part of the furniture of someone's life, whose presence is no more company than an ottoman or a passing autobus. I have been furniture that way before, like a lampshade or a coffee cup. You can't cure loneliness--you can only hope to convert from mannequin into friend.

Stand behind the figure at the window, just still, just for a moment. Experience what she sees, without seeing it at all. If you ask her "What do you see?", you'd get an editorial, a depiction in words. You'll never see out her window. If she moves away from the window, you can step up toward the window. But then it will be your window. You'll see the things out there, but in your head, you'll hear your own story, your own narrative. It won't sound much like the story she tells you at all.

Physicists and philosophers spend a lot of time worrying about trees which fall outside of anyone's hearing in the woods. But wouldn't you enjoy seeing what she sees, and thinking what she thinks? She's at the window, now, and her world is going by. Can't you just imagine that her world is like your world in so many ways, but in some ways so different you're simply fascinated?

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