Annie Dillard Seeing Essay Summary


“Seeing” starts out with Dillard remembering a childhood compulsion she had of hiding a penny in a tree and then drawing arrows to it on the sidewalk. But she never did see who picked up the penny, but she would check later and it would be gone. From this topic she makes the leap to walking around Tinker Creek on a January afternoon. She notices the ripples in the water, the flash of a fish, insects hovering midair. She wonders about poverty and the worth of a penny, how poor one must be not to even want a penny—how poor one must be not to see the beauty she now sees.

She thinks about lovers and how only they can see their connection, of how once she was with a group of friends who owned horses and they were all cooped up on...

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Two ways of seeing, Dillard explains, makes a difference whether or not one unlocks the “secret of seeing”. The first way, Dillard puts, “When I see this way, I analyze and pry” (Dillard 122). The second way to see, Dillard explicates, “But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied” (Dillard 122). The difference of seeing the first way and the second way is the first way is much too tedious. Trying too hard to see actually makes it more difficult to see, as in Dillard’s previous mention of the “artificial obvious”. People have to not so much expect the unexpected, but open their mind to the expected and unexpected. The second way of seeing, Dillard further explains:

The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. (Dillard 123)

The second way of seeing, therefore, is to ignore analyzing. The “muddy river” of the mind, as Dillard calls it, is this analytical side to all of us, the phase of the mind that interferes with, that hinders chances to seeing truly. The “secret of seeing” is to see truly. What is seeing truly? It is a way of seeing that grabs every minuscule sliver of peace in this world that close, quiet observation offers, delving into this “realm of the real” and perceiving reality in a harmonious manner.


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