The Dialogue of Disciplines
Edited by Michael Harvey and Ronald E. Riggio
Chapter 15: Learning How to Look: The Art of Observation and Leadership Development
Anu M. Mitra From ancient times, prophets and seers have exhorted us to look deeper into our surroundings. Perhaps a seer or dreamer stood within the caves at Lascaux or Altamira and bid her audience to gaze deep into the images painted on the walls – or perhaps this special seeing was reserved for a chosen few. As we learn to see, the prophets have said, as we begin to look, to observe, to reflect and to wrest meaning and patterns out of the world around us, we gain surer knowledge of that world, and of ourselves. Josè Saramago, the Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate, gives his novel Blindness an epigraph from the Book of Exhortations: If you can see, learn how to look If you can look, learn how to observe. “To see”, “to look”, “to observe” – acknowledging the differences among these acts is at the heart of every successful viewer of the visual field. In the fifteenth century, in his copious journals extending beyond 13 000 pages, Leonardo da Vinci harnessed the energy of his imagination by teaching himself how to see things as if for the first time. Thus, an ordinary coin merits multiple pages of description as well as a detailed, x-ray-like drawing that cuts through the object and seems to give it a life of its own. In these pages as well as in his art, da Vinci teaches himself to look and observe with utter clarity, so as to know the object, and, by extension,...
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