I always admire people who marvel at things that anyone could have noticed but didn’t.*
If we were to describe our lives simply in terms of its factual truth, most of its interesting, complex and surprising dimensions would be left out.**
Life invites us to pierce the finite and look upon the infinite.
In his book on compassion Paul Gilbert lists all the things we didn’t get to choose, from being born, through where and when, to the social groups we find ourselves in with the educational possibilities that come with these:
We just find ourselves here trying to make sense of it the best that we can.^
We can stop short and only focus on these things or we can look through them to see what lies beyond, a beginning rather than a destination:
Most people don’t look …
The gaze that pierces – few have it –
What does the gaze pierce?
The question mark.^^
I love these words from Hedda Sterne, piercing the finite, the ego:
I see myself as a well-working lens, a perceiver of something that exists independently of me: don’t look at me, look at what I’ve found.*^
Her gaze isn’t interrupted by needing to see herself, or for others to see her, in a particular way:
Unless you can forget yourself when you look, there isn’t a true relationship happening between the work of art and the viewer. The same thing goes for work. The more anonymous you are and the more you lose yourself, the more you add to yourself. It sounds absurd, but that’s the way it really is.*^
She may be speaking out of her art, but her words resonate with all of us exploring our worlds.
The absurdness we come upon is exactly how the marvellous life works.
We can all learn to marvel.
And we don’t have to go far to find the marvellous. It’s within us, within others, within all that is around us:
My idea being that for the sublime and the beautiful and the interesting, you don’t have to look far away. You have to know how to see.*^
*From Brian Eno’s A Year With Swollen Appendices;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
^From Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind;
^^Henri Cartier-Bresson, quoted in John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
*^Hedda Sterne quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: The work and wisdom of Hedda Sterne.
2 thoughts on “It’s a marvellous life”
I have been a fan of Brian Eno for many years, I will look for his book, it must be interesting!
I first came across Eno in the 1970s. This is how he appeared with Roxy Music, my favourite band even today. It has been fascinating to see him come up in different people’s writing so I thought I must pick up a book by him. This one is a 25th anniversary reprint.