Unreal Nature

February 16, 2011

At a Glance

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:32 am

… A single glance suffices to detect the pathology of pretense that infects a hegemonic social scene …

This is from the Introduction to The World at a Glance by Edward S. Casey (2007):

… How can this stripling act, so seemingly innocent and ever young, stand up to the daunting authority of orthodox theories of vision? How can this David confront the Goliath of such theories? … The glance is the slingshot of the look: at once meager in means and yet potent in effect, deceptively local in its immediate orbit and yet far-flung in its full compass.

… What the glance takes in is vast in comparison with its own physical extent (being a mere epiphenomenon of the eye) and time of enactment (taking no more than a few seconds at best). It is as if the glance were a fulcrum, an Archimedean point of leverage, for otherwise quite demanding or massive being-in-the-world.

… the glance is all too often taken as the epitome of the shallow in human perception, something that merely flits over the superficies — literally the “outer faces,” the bare “outward appearance” — of things. Like a butterfly playing on the surface of a glacier.

My argument will be that precisely in such a flitting, such ceaseless traveling among surfaces, the glance proves to be of inestimable value in coming to know the life-world in many of its primary guises. No other act of vision is capable of such subtle incursions into its surroundings. Not unlike the butterfly, by indirections we find out the world’s directions — sometimes better than by conventional modes of concerted and direct visual address.

… Just as moments and instants in their pointed and spotty ways cut up time, so glances sever space. In this way, the oppressiveness of all that bears “heavier or more deadly weight” is relieved by the glance as well as by the now-point (die Jetzpunkt in Husserl’s nonreductive sense). Each breaks through, and thereby undermines the complacency of contented and continuous time and space, their heaviness and plenitude, their spirit of gravity.

But more than cutting and undermining is here at stake. The now-point is a creative source as well as a punctate entity, and the glance comprehends and connects even as it severs. It not only takes the world apart but also puts it back together again, often both at once.

… The glance also enables us to cut through the cant and dogma of “false opinions and contentious thought,” to traverse the dead layers of sedimented ideas, and thus to reach a lively mother lode of new possibilities of interpersonal life. A single glance suffices to detect the pathology of pretense that infects a hegemonic social scene, and with this glancing blow an entire vision of a less stratified sociality opens.

In the last bit above (from “Just as moments …”), Casey is repeatedly referencing or quoting from William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Book XII, lines 258-268. In Casey’s book, that segment of Wordsworth’s poem is given before what I’ve quoted. I guess I have to  include it here … grudgingly … because I don’t particularly like Wordsworth (and this poem is no exception):

There are in our existence spots of time
Which with distinct pre-eminence retain
A vivifying virtue, whence depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up
when fallen . . .



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