Lack of vision leads to lack of growth
When people see the sun every day, they think that the sun is a cycle, but it is not an exact cycle. Sometimes they cannot see it because it is hiding behind the clouds or it is raining; however, they cannot say that the sun is not there.” This applies in general to people’s perception of things- they make incorrect perceptions on the external appearances of what they see. A cow may look four legged and harmless; this is not a reason for it not to charge at you and injure you. Thoreau emphasises this same concept through his quote, “Our vision does not penetrate the surface of things.” The term vision refers to the ability to see things for, as they are not as what some think they are; the perception of how things are and what they actually are; the mental eyesight rather than the physical eyesight. The term penetrate here is used to refer to the ability to reach below the surface, to uncover, discover, to expose truths, and realities. The surface refers to what someone sees from a physical point of view, to external appearances, events on the surface, illusions. The things can refer to events, faces, people, material possessions, odds, and ends of human life. The sentence itself can refer to the superficial way of leading life.
This essay is about using Thoreau’s essay as an anchor to link through the thoughts of two other writers, Plato and Dillard and bring them all together on the same platform. Plato in his essay, expounds on a similar notion- where a man’s perception changes when he moves from a cave into the sunlight- both contexts affect his perception in different ways and his judgement of things. Through the allegory of the cave, Plato describes the evolution of the human soul, from a state of unthinking blindness to a state of light and knowledge and intellectual attainment, which is the truth (Plato). Thus one needs to be careful before judging what is truth. Annie Dillard in her essay, also through her personal examples of her experiences with nature, says the same thing: our lack of vision will ensure that we miss out many important aspects of life. She mentions about the importance of simplicity and why more of less can help increase clarity about life (Dillard). Thus, three essays together bring out different perspectives on how clarity of vision is necessary for our growth.
Thoreau says in his essay “Where I lived, and What I lived for” that “[o]ur vision does not penetrate the surface of things” (Thoreau and Cramer). In my view, the above words can be explained this way. The words confirm succinctly Thoreau’s own ideas of life. Thoreau highlights throughout the essay that humans are caught up in the rush and pace of life (Thoreau and Cramer). He implies that people do not even take time to absorb the moments and the contexts around them, the environment, the weather, the sun, the morning, and in this rush, people are wasting their whole existence and they do not recognize their humanity (Thoreau and Cramer). Thoreau makes the point that average human beings perceive things superficially and they make judgments and assumptions; they do not question them or challenge them. They do not seek to undercover or accept the reality behind this or are ignorant. As an example, when they see someone behave in a way, which is not according to their notions, they may judge and criticize them. They do not see what could have made him act this way, the context, his thinking that people seek to superimpose their view, as they see it.
Continuing further, the lack of vision is made clear in the article; Thoreau implies that people are caught up in the small things, and they think that money is needed for happiness because they are used to seeing the fancy buildings and expensive cars and dresses. They do not see that no matter what material possessions they may have, if they do not have inner peace and happiness in themselves, these things are of no use. Our happiness comes from within, not without. They need to see what is behind the rich appearances, which comes at a price (Thoreau and Cramer).
Thoreau’s article also explores the importance of the mornings, as the time of moral awakening in human lives. They are the best part of lives. They are the times when humans are at our best and most vital. Thoreau implies that they are our spiritually most enriched time but in the fast lives, people rush through them. They think that it is their job and daily routine that is important. They do not seek to spend time with themselves; they do not seek to appreciate the morning. They are not aware of the deep potentiality within them. Many people seek to spend their time in laziness and idle activities and they cannot find reasons for their dissatisfaction, and they do not go beyond this and ask why. Thoreau’s essay emphasizes that everyone has a purpose in life. People need to go beyond superficialities and improve their vision to see truths and realities. They need to find and follow that purpose, without hurry, they will then realize our truth. Sometimes people get caught up in illusions and wrong purposes, which are not meant for their nature. If they persist and if they seek to use their mind’s eyes, they may remove the cobwebs, which obscure the mental vision and see the reality of what they are doing. They can then make positive change.
People need to see things from a wider angle rather than just one side or aspect to it. That is what is life. They need to discard the excess and the unnecessary and focus on the essentials. They need to cut down the extras so that they can see things more clearly. That is the essence of Thoreau’s essay (Thoreau and Cramer).
When we read Plato’s allegory, we can find connections with what Thoreau said. He compares the human journey from darkness or ignorance to a state of light to the situation where prisoners who have been living in an underground den and hidden away from the light, associate the shadows they see with realities and truths (Plato). When such people slowly are exposed to light and move towards it, their initial response to it can be painful; initially the sunlight burns and hurts them and they find it difficult to accept this as the reality. With time, as their perception increases, they are able to accept the reality of the sun, they are able to throw away the shackles of prison hood within the den; they then see that it was the sun which was the truth and not the shadows of darkness which they had been used to. Thoreau’s essay touches upon this aspect of human evolution and spiritual growth in his own essay. In his essay he describes the incompleteness of human vision that how people tend to see just one side of thing or the thing they are used to seeing in front of their eyes as the sole truth, when the actual reality can be far bigger than that, far more broad ranging and encompassing. Thoreau also mentions that the more higher dwelling the thoughts of a person, the more he will rise, the better his life would be. Thus, it mirrors the message in Plato’s allegory. Just like Plato praises the sun as the giver of life and as the center of truth and reality, so does Thoreau praise about the wonders and the energetic effect of the dawn and the morning and how the best and highest thoughts are achieved in the morning.
Similarly, Annie Dillard’s essay makes connections with what Plato and Thoreau says about perception and growth. People should strive to be happy with less so we can get maximum joy, enjoyment and bounty and they would appreciate things in life more. She gives the example of a small penny buried in the ground with arrows pointing towards it, which many may ignore in their rush of life (Dillard). But if they chose to develop a habit of watching for the small things in life, by appreciating the signs and signals, which lie unobserved and undetected, they can obtain great joy and experience great discoveries. Living with great simplicity and cutting down needs, they can fully enjoy the treasures, which each day brings. This message is brought out in Thoreau’s essay also. Thoreau explains the importance and necessity of simplicity and mendaciousness and of the necessity of keeping things down to a minimum and keeping focus on a few things at a time (Thoreau and Cramer). He also mentions about the need for slowing down and to be not in a state of rush (Thoreau and Cramer).
In short, all three thinkers focus the reader’s attention on the central theme, which is about the necessity for clear vision and perception in life and how he or she can achieve that. Limited vision and lack of perception is responsible for blinding people to the higher things in life. Many people cannot get out of this den of ignorance. However, once the journey starts, it gradually leads to shedding of wrong notions and true higher, intellectual and spiritual growth.
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