“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau
On my daily walks along the Esplanade there’s a house that has a fairy garden with tiny figurines. One of the figurines has one of Henry David Thoreau’s famous quotes, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.” This quote points out the difference between the senses and perception.
Our senses give us information and facts but does not always allow us to perceive or experience the item our eyes see. For example, I might see a tree as a plant with stem, and branches and leaves. But, what I might perceive is a natural beauty that represents thousands of years of evolution or the hand of a higher power at work. I might look at a painting and view a canvas with brightly painted colors and brush strokes. But, what I see is a mastery of beauty, passion or a story that touches my mind and my heart.
I think what Thoreau was telling us was to not only view the world around us from a sensory input means, but more importantly to see beyond the shapes, colors, and lighting to the inner meaning and beauty contained in the world around us. Thoreau wants us to understand that it is often the unseen or the perceived that is far more important than the seen or input from our eyes. We should take in the world around us with our mind’s eye rather than just our physical eye.
Our awareness of the objects around us is informed and fine-tuned by any number of factors—our strength and energy levels, our sense of confidence, our fears and desires. Being human means seeing the world through your own constantly shifting lens because as we all know, looks can be deceiving.