SHUT YOUR EYES TO SEE
THE WORLD CLEARLY
The poet Pablo Neruda wrote a book of poems which he called Odes to common things. It included odes to such objects as a bed, a chair, a bar of soap, an empty plate, an apple, a tree, a cloud, a door. It reads:
O irrevocable river of things
No one can say that I loved only fish, or the plants of the jungle and the field,
That I loved only those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It’s not true.
Many things conspired to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me, Or my hand touched them.
They were so close that they were a part of my being,
They were so alive with me that they lived half my life
And will die half my death.
I think Neruda tries to make us see that everything we look at has a unique shape, colour, and texture as well as function. Although we rarely pay attention to them, if we look at them with a sensitive eye we can definitely appreciate their aesthetic qualities.
When I was noting the Bank of China from the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, I became aware for the first time that the twin spires on top of the building designed by I.M.Pei resembled a preying mantis. The same was true of his glass pyramid with its graceful triangular shape that made it seem as if the peak was eagerly reaching out to compete with the Lourve. Had they been presented in a display room, I would have seen something more than objects, something deeper in the way forms can take on a life of their own and create enduring values.
When asked about how he managed to produce such beautiful literary works, Ernest Hemingway simply replied: “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
The art of seeing. No more. No less.
See it or not, these stains are part of the street scene in Ho Chi Minh.