Always be ready to see what you haven’t seen before. It’s a kind of looking where you don’t know what you’re looking for.*
Our times are driven by the inestimable energies of the mechanical mind; its achievements derive from its singular focus, linear direction and force. When it dominates, the habit of gentleness dies out.**
Placing these two together caused me to think about gentle eyes. Whether there is a way of seeing without agenda or judgement making it possible to see new, to see more, both people and things.
The context of Corita Kent’s words is an exercise for seeing and I notice that she uses the phrase “soft focus” for the way of looking to be adopted – which feels like having gentle eyes. I thought to write it out as a whole here because you may like to try it – perhaps connecting it with John Cage’s 4′ 33″, setting a timer and looking with gentle eyes:
There is an exercise I’ve learned lately, and that is to be quiet and look at an object or space directly ahead of you. Keep a soft focus and also allow your attention to reach past your peripheral vision, left and right. In addition, place your attention on top of or above your head. All of these directions – front, right, left, above – being looked at with a kind of diffuseness. You try to have a clear moment when you are empty and open to things around you. You see them new – your vision is cleansed and you can make contact with what is really there, uncluttered by old thoughts and prejudices.*
It is the difference between looking for something and seeing or receiving what is there, be it object or subject.