Notebook

Recalibration

‘Man’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and again. We do not mean here, of course, the phys­iological sensitivity of the human eye. We mean the spiritual capacity to perceive the visible reality as it truly is.’ Thus wrote Josef Pieper in the 1950s, in a passage cited this morning by Elizabeth R. Powell at a symposium held in Trondheim under the title, Seeing Nature. We’ve become a lot worse since Pieper.

Powell went on to perform an exercise in seeing by means of close analysis of David Jones‘s engraving from 1924, The Nativity. Notice the middle ‘n’ in the word ‘incarnation’. The inversion, we were told, was probably a simple mistake (an engraver must carve his work as a mirror image), yet one rich in significance, for God’s becoming man is the source of ‘multiple inversions’. To relearn to see, we must ‘recalibrate our senses to the wonders of the small’. Then great discoveries, perhaps even revelations, await us.