Philosophy TuesdayJuly 26, 2016
This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
“I remember when my son was about two, we were walking in the woods one November morning. We were along a ridge, looking down at the forest below, where a cold haze seemed to hug the forest floor, and you could see out across the forest below us for miles, and it was just so extravagantly beautiful. And I kept trying to get my oblivious two-year-old to appreciate this landscape. At one point I picked him up and pointed out toward the horizon and said “look at that, Henry, just look at it!” And he said, “Leaf!” “What?” I said, and he said “leaf” again, and then reached out and grabbed a single brown oak leaf from the little tree next to us.
I wanted to explain to him that you can see a brown oak leaf literally anywhere in the Eastern United States in November, that nothing in the forest was less interesting. But after watching him look at it, I began to look as well, and I soon realized it wasn’t just a brown leaf. Its veins spidered out red and orange and yellow in a pattern too complex for my brain to synthesize, and the more I looked at the leaf with Henry the more I felt like the cliché of the stoner who just can’t believe how beautiful everything is.
The intricacy of that leaf astonished me, and I was reminded that aesthetic beauty is as much about how and whether you look as what you see. I was, in short, face-to-face with something commensurate to my capacity of wonder. From the quark to the supernova, the wonders do not cease. It is our attentiveness that is in short supply, our ability and willingness to do the work that awe requires.”