Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking

Looking for something is a fascinating experience.

I am looking for a bottle. I know it is blue. I'm look around my apartment. I don't know where it is. I want it. I'm going to find it.

But how do I go about looking for it?

What does it mean to look for something?

It means that we don't know where it is and we want it and are going to attempt to find it.

But how do you do it?

How do you explain to someone how to look for something?

Does it involve focus? Does it involve reasoning?

Or does it involve something a little more subtle?

I think it involves something a little more subtle.

I think it requires an open field of vision in which you are looking at everything without focusing on something in particular.

I think it is about dispersing your attention.

It would be possible to intensionally rationalize and to focus on all the little spots that it 'should be'.

'Oh, well I always walk this way, so it must be along this path.'

I read once that we misplace things because we break our routines, because we go some place and put something in spots where we don't usually. But then we confuse ourselves by thinking about our routines. We decide to look in the places that we normally go. We looks towards familiar spots. But we should be looking in those places that we don't usually go.

It is like that famous joke about a man who is looking for his keys under a streetlight even though he lost them somewhere in the dark. He looks in the lit area because he can see.

Once I lost my headphones at work. I was walking around outside looking for them. I retracted my steps multiple times and I finally found them somewhere.

I talked to a friend about how it was a fascinating experience. How it was an interesting mental/phenomenological experience. He asked if it was a good exercise in controlling my emotions. I told him that it was an interesting experience in controlling my rationality.

Because I think that looking is harmed by too much thought. I think that looking means abandoning ideas and just looking. It means keeping your attention wide, keeping your focus dispersed. You look at an entire room and you trust that your unconscious is going to pull your attention to the object you are looking for.

I once told this friend that I thought that thinking worked much like the National Archives (where we worked together): You fill out a request slip, you hand it to the archivist, and you wait for the information to be retrieved for you. Sometimes it comes quickly. Sometimes it takes a while.

I think that at some point I have a question. And then I wait for my minds answer. Sometimes I coax my mind along by thinking logically. But often I have no idea what sort of logical trains to follow. I have no idea how to continue thinking.

How to continue thinking. How to think differently.

That is the problem.

And I think that looking requires an openness to think in many different ways. To transcend or shed thought. To just look.

Maybe that is why John Gray asked "Cant we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?" Maybe Gray didn't mean the same thing.

But maybe he did.

There is something going on with looking. With paying attention. Zen. All that. Whatever.

I found what I was looking for tonight. It was a blue bottle.

I wonder if I can starting looking at my life the way I looked at my apartment tonight.

But I don't know.

Because in life, unlike in my apartment, I don't know what I'm looking for.

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