Observation observed

In the piece title “Experience”, Emerson states that “Our life is not so much threatened as our perception.” (p471) Life in this statement, as I have observed seems to be in the back ground and if this were to be portrayed by Turner, perception would take on the form of nature in a subliminal manner, and the life of man would seem minuscule and inferior. As mentioned in class, the man would appear “dwarfed” as perception seem to have a greater value. The value of perception is now what needs to be measured. As I am observing this statement made by Emerson, I may have a different point of view from my classmates, but who is to say that I am wrong? “Life is a string of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many colored lenses which paint the world a different hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.” (p473) I use this quote to prove that for each person, each retina, and each camera obscura, what one may see doesn’t speak for another. Looking back at the pieces by Joseph Mallard William Turner, I may interject that the portrait titled “Fishermen at Sea” is more devastating than that of “The Shipwreck”. In both portraits, there is the image of the big ocean, and the boats and their occupants are so small that one may feel as though they are being swallowed in. However the scene with the fishermen, as previously stated could be viewed or observed as sad because there is no actual sign that they are catching any fish. Each man may have a wife and five children to feed and provide for, but rather than obtaining what they have voyaged far outto obtain, they are empty handed and tired. Their children may be starving or splitting the last few crumbs of a stale loaf of bread. On the other hand the shipwreck victims could be at peace with themselves and life, and so it may seem as though they are embracing the fact that the sea has made them vulnerable. There could also be the chance that nature is taking vengence for the action of the men. Who is tro say, they were not pirates who just left an island whose women they raped and treasures they stole. I can observe no distress in the blank faces, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can not be there. I feel that  that is precisely why the faces have been painted that way- blank. To each observer you will find a unique view. I am saying this to simply say that no matter what the image shows, it is our own experiences, and knowledge that we use as our technique in observation allowing ourselves to interpret what the eyes are seeing. Nature is a stable force, but it is man who has for years been exposed to so many elements of life, that their experiences begin to shape and color any single image in nature. It is man that alters, not nature. Johnathan Crary talks about the binocular vision, and how we see differently with each eye. This just proves that man is not as definite as we want ourselves to appear. We have flaws, and so our after image, as Goethe focuses on, may at times alter, while nature alone remains perfect and stable. I would hope that it is therefore safe to conclude that man learns best from nature, and it is this same nature that we try so hard to imitate.

One Response to “Observation observed”

  1.   Dominique Says:

    I see you trying to connect material from various course discussions in this response, which is a good impulse. Let me pose again the question I asked you in class: is “seeing” the same thing as “interpreting”?

    Your comments above about “The Shipwreck” and “Fisherman at Sea” tell me that you’re attempting to interpret those paintings and that you’re walking away with the feeling that sounds something like, “well, interpretation (i.e. meaning and symbolism) is just relative.”

    On one hand, yes, you’re right. On the other hand, a culture, at a particular moment in time, establishes a consistent relationship to representation and to perception itself. At this point in the course, we’re dealing with two ways of thinking about seeing (i.e. literal sight, as well as interpretation): Turner and Emerson are part of a more Romantic, “visionary” school where perception is about process. They seem to be trying to capture “pictures” in the midst of becoming images that can be interpreted. On the other hand, the camera obscura and the steroscope are technologies that present more stable visual representations. A figure like Oliver Wendell Holmes (writing in 1859–about 15 years after Emerson published “Experience”) is obviously quite keen on these, and thinks they’ll totally transform the culture as his generation knew it. At this cultural moment, Holmes represents a school of thought in which people are aiming to create visual representations that are accurate, reliable, and verifiable. In both cases, there’s a broader, cultural way of thinking about seeing that is going to influence any one individuual’s response.

    Try re-reading your post. How might you organize what you have here in line with the context I’ve just provided.

    Just one structural suggestion: next time, use paragraphs to structure your ideas. You’ll maintain more control over your writing.

    Thank you for this first post!

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