How to see

How to see.jpg

I’m a fan of the writings of Josef Pieper, a German philosopher who tried his best to convince people with noses to the grindstone after WWII to introduce sabbath-like leisure into their lives. (See a blog post here and here.) In fact, I have an essay coming out in the next issue of Under the Sun (its last print issue) in which Pieper is a key player. His seminal essays are compiled in the book, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, but this morning I’m thinking about another slim companion volume, Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.

In this collection of essays, he again begs us to take seriously his call to leisure, “For nothing less is at stake here than the ultimate fulfillment of human existence.” A key component of this brand of leisure is contemplation, which he equates with seeing, meaning having the “spiritual capacty to perceive the visible reality as it truly is.” We can boost that capacity, wrote Pieper, by fasting and abstaining for periods from daily visual noise, and through artistic creation. In the book's last essay he expands the definition of contemplation beyond that of seeing to include also loving,

"Eyes see better when guided by love." 

So the question that arises on this weekday morning with work projects stacked on the desk and writing projects hovering all around is how contemplation--that is, seeing in love--can be woven into a work day, or said another way, into the everyday life of a working person, such that one's gaze is toward reality and guided by love?