Observation and the Unexamined Life

The woman who taught me some rudiments of painting with watercolors could see things I could not. I have hope of being able to observe something of what she did when I have acquired her skill of observation through a lifetime of practice. Not the same, of course: she sees other things being another person, having other fondnesses, admirations and delights; and she has given it her life’s dedication in a way I do not intend.

I have achieved formerly a measure of observation for verbal description with which I am not entirely dissatisfied, as those of you who read my Unexamined Life perhaps noticed (one of the things you learn, though, is how little people notice).

And now I am dedicated to observing things in Scripture. My Mondays and my Tuesdays taken up in observation which my Thursday and Friday mornings then organize again for verbal description. And I have learned it requires other investment as well: in general reading–besides particular reading, in being around the people, in the observations of life.

The conclusion to which is obvious (but observation has to start with the obvious or it never gets underway): if you are going to escape an unexamined life, you need to develop habits of observation. The real question for those who have any desire to escape an unexamined life is, How?


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