In college, one of our assigned books was Ways of Seeing by John Berger, based on a series of 30-minute films in the early 1970’s. While I recommend the book, this isn’t a review of it. Rather, the title is evokative of a state of mind. It’s on my shelf in my line-of-site from where I do a lot of my writing, so it’s something that’s in the background of my consciousness and the words have become a phrase in the substrata of my mind.
The way we see is unique. Each of us could look at the same scene and come away with different impressions and imagery of what we saw. This is valuable and necessary. We don’t have to believe it for it to be true; we just have to see.
Do you have a camera, even just the simple one in your phone? (Granted, some of the smart phones out there have cameras that are anything but simple.) Have you experimented with just shooting a picture series of what you look at every day? Try this:
Tomorrow, as you go about your daily round, take pictures. If you drive, pause and snap what you see out your windshield before you start driving. If you walk or take transit, snap pictures of stuff you see every time you go on your route. The more mundane, the better. Like a detective, we are after data and facts, not art.
Do you dislike pictures of yourself? Experiment by taking one picture of yourself every day this week. Do not judge; just take the picture and record the date. “This is what I looked like on Tuesday.” Play with different expressions and poses. If you find yourself with one particular expression a lot, make that expression (for example, the one you have on your face when the phone rings) and take a picture of yourself. What do you look like with that expression?
If you don’t have a camera, there are several good, inexpensive models you can find here, here, and here. See if you have a friend who would loan you theirs. If you have an affiliation with a school, they sometimes have them available for loan.
The point here is to become acquainted with how we see the world. A fun twist on this exercise is to do it at the same time as your kids and then compare notes. See what you might learn about each other. Be prepared – leave your expectations at the door. When you open your eyes and look, you’ll never know what you might see.