A way of seeing that involves a letting go

Oh this reminds me of my post about how I am the photographer, and the ramifications this has to my ability to be present. This is, as far as I am concerned, as close to perfect prose as I have ever read. It traces the collision of poetry and physics. A way of seeing that is a way of letting go. Yes. Yes. It is not merely a physical act, seeing: it is also spiritual, emotional, and an act of will. Yes.

Oh, be still, my heart. This is the language I aspire to. I am merely a peon at the ankles of this language.

But there is another way of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut … When I see this way I see truly. As Thoreau says, I return to my senses … But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll faint, I’ll go mad … The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise … I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit til you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
(italics are mine)

2 thoughts on “A way of seeing that involves a letting go”

  1. I'm not sure I believe in "perfect prose," but I imagine this comes pretty close.

    Think I have a book to buy!

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