Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 13: Observation of trifles

Do you know about the site Brain Pickings? Founder Maria Popover describes it as a "human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are", which sounds rather vague, but it does sum it up.

The topics traversed are broad - science, art, language, music, literature, psychology, philosophy, the meaning of life and pretty much everything in between. There's plenty of stuff on happiness, which appeals to me, and there's even been a story or two on old signs. I favourite more tweets from Maria Popova/Brain Pickings than anyone else I follow on Twitter. 

Today's favourite Brain Pickings tweet is about a book called On Looking by cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, which is about seeing familiar surrounds with fresh eyes. The author walks around her New York City block with 11 different "experts" (including her dog and toddler) to see the different ways they experience the surroundings - what they notice. 
Together, we became investigators of the ordinary, considering the block — the street and everything on it—as a living being that could be observed.
In this way, the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and the old the new.
Essentially it's about learning to see, something I've become better at since starting this and my photo blog.  The blurb on the Amazon site says:
Alexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.”
Heh. The observation of trifles. That could be the subtitle for this blog.  


Lindy said...

So pleased to see you back!! I thought I'd just give your blog a try. I hadn't checked in for a couple of weeks and there you were!!
Welcome back!
I read your November 1st post. Sorry you haven't been so great. I'm with you - yeah the medication!!(Been on it for 20 years and it changed my life.)
Thanks for getting back on the blogging bandwagon. I really missed your cheerful recounting of your adventures in Melbourne. You have made my day.!!

Deidre said...

it is really amazing how much we don't see, isn't it? Sounds like a good read.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Brain Pickings is a wonderful site - I get the weekly digest of the best articles every Sunday and it is something I look forward to.

I too was very much taken with 'On looking'. I'm halfway through it, and the best quote (for me) so far is:

[Jakob von Uexkull} observed that we are lazy in imagining the perspective of other people too. "The best way to find out that no two human Ummwelten [world-views] are the same," he wrote, "is to have yourself led through unknown territory by someone familiar with is. Your guide unerringly follows a path you cannot see."

I've since come to the conclusion that a good guide (around a stately home or museum or town history walk or yoga mat) adds to your experience. I used to avoid them previously, preferring to go my own way, and probably missed much.