& Leopold Essay, Research Paper
Sight is merely the collecting of various fragments of light, but the act of seeing is about
assumptions. Light bouncing of an object (a chair for example) is only that and nothing else. As
far as optics are concerned we do not see the chair, we merely see what is left of any light
hitting the chair. But those flashes of light are almost useless without interpretation and
assumptions. Our minds use shading, texture and prior experience to determine aspects such as
distance and definition, and recognition; i.e. The object is approximately four feet away, it looks
to be around three feet tall, and since I have seen chairs before I recognize it as that. Some ware
in the evolution of this system of referencing something deeper was created. We can look at an
object and not only see, but feel. We can connect sight with emotion and associate those emotions
with those from past experience and even assign a judgment. The sunset is beautiful, much like a
sunrise; and it also can represent closure. The object is a chair, much like previously seen chairs;
it is also good for sitting.
The eye ( that is as it is used as a figure of speech) can be trained and untrained to spot
objects of the physical world. Dillard alludes to this many times in Chapter two, Seeing , in
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; She gives personal testimonials and the accounts of others. She shows
how the visual appearance of our surroundings is totally relative to learned experience and mind
set. She talks about formerly blind children who had been given sight through surgical means, but
doctors learned that they could not return something that the subjects had never had. There was
then cold proof that sight was more then a mechanical and automatic. Those who are blind
from birth… have no real conception of height or distance. A house that is a mile away is
thought of as nearby, but requiring the taking of a lot of steps…. The elevator that whizzes him
up and down gives no more sense of vertical distance than of the train of horizontal. P.28
Those subjects had never learned how to visually associate thier surroundings. The images they
see have little relevance and worth. Put frankly, how things look don t matter much to the blind,
weather they can see or not. Dillard also adds memories from her own childhood to illustrate
how the opposite effect can occur; I used to be able to see flying insects in the air. I d look
ahead to see, not the row of hemlocks across the road, but the air in front of it. My eyes would
focus along that column of air, picking out flying insects…. probably some people can look at the
grass at thier feet and discover all the crawling creatures. P.17 She explains how she lost
interest in the act of spotting bugs and thusly, such details became lost to her.
The blind navigate on thier own without the use of sight, but as far as seeing , thier
perceptions of our world are not as far off as we may think. The fact is, we perceive our world as
we see it, and they do the same; perceive theirs as the do. We admire colorful paintings when in
reality it recognized that the only thing which can actually possess the quality of color is the
light bombarding the painting and our eyes. Deeper then that, the idea of a portrait is absurd. The
Mona Lisa is merely an iconic representation of a particular woman. It is the pop art concept of
This is not a pipe . Human beings use our gift of perception to satisfy our own vanity. We see
our image in everything, from cave paintings to the renaissance, from impressionism to
modernism, and from electrical outlets to the old man of the mountain. We indulge ourselves
grossly and to absurd extreme, and it is all possible because of the gift of perception.
Dillard and Leopold bold have the habit of anthropomorphizing plants and animals (i.e.
Dillard s dog, Leopold s everything.). This is another trait of human perception and vanity
coupled with our loneliness in the animal kingdom. Man feels truly apart from nature. Many
attempt to bridge the gap, some try by viewing man as more of an animal and pointing out our
basic instincts. However, Dillard and Leopold chose more often to bring aspects of nature to a
more human level. Instead of trying to get readers to relate to nature on some foreign level, they
have us connect with them directly. It is an idea that has been used since before the age Pavlov.
Does a dog smile? Do our cats miss us while we are away? The answer is irrelevant. All that
matters is that we wonder, or even more so that many of us believe they do not have to. Annie
Dillard finds herself falling into present with the aid of a sunset and a soft beagle belly. Aldo
Leopold though seems to never let up, with nearly every plant or animal he describes be sneaks in
a few humanistic traits. A wonderful example of this is how he describes pine trees after their
main shoot has been destroyed by pine weevil; Such a leaderless pine is doomed to frustration,
for the surviving branches disagree among themselves who is to head the skyward march . P.89
He turns a tree into a conscious unit, preforming human emotions. Leopold is exercising the full
power of his sight and perception.
I used to live in a little trailer park in southern mountains of Vermont. In the side ride my
family and I would keep chickens. The hens would bicker back and forth through the morning on
the topic of what was and was not food. Eventually there chatter would rouse me and i would
find my way out to scatter a coffee can of feed. There conversations would cease for a few
minutes and the they would be silenced by there full beaks, save the occasional muffled cluck to
signify thier approval. Before long what was left of the uneaten grain would have been kick
around and dispersed by thier scratch and flapping and they could then resume the there chatter.
This is the system of assumptions and perceptions that Dillard and Leopold use to convey thier
understanding of nature and even partly of humanity. We may not all be chickens, but none of us
are not chickens. Nature is a part of humanity and humanity, a part of it. Through perceptions we
can see more then just where one begins and ends, but where the two overlap.
If you look over this argument and only see chairs, puppies, and chickens then my idea s
of seeing have at least been somewhat correct, because you saw them. I didn t need to show
pictures and enclose physical examples, I used your natural sense of perception to aid me. We all
have at our disposal an unfathomable database of thoughts, memories, and emotions, which are
crossed referenced again and again. Seeing is not in the sight, but in the insight.