This seems an appropriate season to quote baseball player Yogi Berra who said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Two afternoons ago I had the pleasure of attending a lecture hosted by the Wildlife Society at UCM and delivered by Dr. John Hess. Dr. Hess was my Biology professor my sophomore year in college and he very nearly inspired me to change my major from Theatre to Biology. (Looking back I would say it was mere fear of the unknown that stopped me from stepping onto that new path). Dr. Hess is a rare educator in that he offers his students what may be the biggest gift any educator can offer: the opportunity for students to watch someone love what they do. His passion for science, stories and beauty is like a bouquet of flowers he plucks one by one in the midst of any formal or informal conversation in which he is engaged.
The topic of his lecture on Thursday was “Observation.” While I took copious notes as he spoke, there were two things he said that I would like to share with you all. I can’t stop thinking about these premises and so, being an educator myself I just have to share them.
First, Dr. Hess explained that as human beings we are inclined to label things and then move on. Take for example, the Dandelion. When we were children we were taught the name of the Dandelion as well as the fact that we could blow into its seeds and watch them fly into the air. Some of us may have even been taught that it is wind—whether from our lips or from the world around us—that causes the life of the Dandelion to perpetuate across grassy fields and lawns. Then, most of us stopped learning about the Dandelion. We learned the label, we felt we knew enough and then we ignored the Dandelion.
The problem with labeling and ignoring the Dandelion is that it holds stunning design that is intricate, surprising and beautiful. There are things to continuing learning about this flower. There are stories and relationships and cycles to unfold. But, we label and then move on.
I have to ask . . . how many of the things that surround us daily have we learned in name and then forgotten about? And, do we extend this proclivity to label and move on to people, as well? How many people’s names do I know without knowing one intricate detail that truly holds the design and beauty of the person him or herself?
This brings me to the next thing I would like to share from Dr. Hess’s lecture. He encouraged us with this: when we are curious about something, we should ask the intellectual questions but then take time to simply watch the aesthetic beauty of the thing itself.
Often, we assign greater meaning to intellectual beauty (intellectual beauty being that which we can make sense of through patterns, designs and details) than we do to aesthetic beauty, which is a kind of beauty that we simply feel. That is how I would describe it, anyway. Intellectual beauty speaks to our innate need to make sense of things while aesthetic beauty speaks to the soul in a language that we sometimes fail to comprehend at all.
And so, today, I hope we all decide to take a few moments to walk outside and watch. Let’s forget about our schedules and plans and try to resist the mundane rhythms of our daily routines, and our smart phones . . . just for a while. And let’s watch. And maybe even feel.
–copyright Jill Szoo Wilson
Photo credit: magnummavis