There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of of what people before us have thought we were looking at.
Flaubert, quoted in preface to Pierre and Jean, in Maupassant's 'The Novel'A post from the archive by Kaspa:
James Wood quotes Flaubert in How Fiction Works. Wood attributes the rise of the modern novel to Flaubert. But what interested me was the observation above, in a section where Wood is talking about the satisfaction of specific detail. I'll come back to that in another post.
Our minds are the repositories of stories. We tell stories about people we know, we imagine we know their lives, outer and inner. We tell stories about the places we live in, and about the jobs we do. The most powerful of these stories has to do with how we feel about ourself, "...this is the sort of person I am". This most powerful of stories tends to be at the heart of all the stories we tell.
Each time we encounter something in the world, a loved one, the view from a mountain top, a favourite book in a library, we receive it through the eyes of these stories. I am the person who loves you, we have this history together... and so on.
Flaubert's point is that we not only encounter the world through these personal stories, but that we encounter the world through the eyes and memories of others. We inherit stories, from our peers, from our parents and increasingly from the media.
When we see the Union Jack flying, we have a sense of history, of an Empire perhaps and whatever feelings that might bring up, pride or shame. We are full of stories. Who amongst us would only see a few red and blue triangles, printed onto a white rectangle of fabric?
There is a part of each thing which is hidden from us. We obscure with stories, as much as we enlighten with them.
The act of really paying attention is not to ignore these stories, but to see the transparency of them, to see them but to look beyond to the mystery too.
What mysteries will you uncover today?