The Language of Vision
This is Part 28 of of a series on vision. It’s like a serialized book! You can read previous chapters here:
Part 1. Part 2. Part3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21. Part 22. Part 23. Part 24. Part 25. Part 26. Part 27.
Have you ever noticed how many expressions in the English language use words related to the sense of sight?
I’ve been writing about vision for over 3 weeks, so I’ve noticed.
The Metaphors of Sight
Sight is the prevailing metaphor for how we define our lives, how we communicate our understanding of concepts, and how we define problems and solutions.
Vision is the roadmap of our lives.
Someone who proclaims a new approach to an old problem is heralded as a visionary.
When we reflect — or look to the past — we use hindsight. Looking to the future is foresight. Insight gives us wisdom and understanding.
When we follow along with what someone else is presenting, we say, I see to convey our understanding.
When we want to know more about something we look into it. If someone is sending something to you, you’ll look out for it. And if they entrust you with something precious you’ll look after it.
If you’re not paying attention you might overlook something important, and commit an oversight, which may call for you to be subjected to oversight.
Oversight and overlook are examples of contronyms, a word that has two meanings that are are opposite. Contronyms are dependent on clear context, or frames, to be properly understood. How we frame something and the lens we look through influences how we see it.
To access your imagination you get a picture in your mind’s eye. Visionaries can often see the big picture clearly, while others may need to fill in the picture.
Obviously, today’s social media culture is obsessed with the image. But our fascination with visuals goes back to the first photographs and even the first cave drawings. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
We seek the seats or the apartment or the position with the best view. We want to find the best angle so we can see the full picture.
Too focused on the details? You can’t see the forest for the trees. Too focused on the landscape? You may not see what’s right in front of you.
We strive to develop focus — to keep our eye on the ball so we do the important things.
But what are the important things? That depends on your perspective.
To make sure you get everything done you might keep an eye on the time or watch the clock. (I wonder if that’s why we call the timepiece on our wrist a “watch,” but I’m not going to look it up right now.)
If you can’t see past another person’s flaws, you might be blind to their beauty.
Victor Frankl famously wrote about Man’s Search For Meaning. Those who want to know themselves or a higher level of consciousness are said to be seeking enlightenment.
If you’re a seeker of enlightenment, fulfillment, or even achievement, you may look for a sign that you’re on the “right path.”
You do this because our culture conditions us to seek proof. We show our work and display our progress and results because we only believe it when we see it, despite science that shows that we actually see it when we believe it.
Language Represents Values
I can go on, but I think you see the point.
Just in case you don’t see where I’m going (beyond the fact that I’m having incredible fun with the challenge I gave myself to write an entire post using vision metaphors without simply writing a boring bullet list), I will sharpen the focus:
A culture’s language speaks volumes about its values. We live in a culture obsessed with vision and seeing.
Our language confirms that appearance is paramount.
We trust what we see above all else, even knowing that we have blind spots.
What you see is what you get.
What If You’re Not Seeing Clearly?
In this context, if you’re not finding what you’re looking for, it stands to reason that maybe you’re not seeing clearly or you’re looking in the wrong place.
Or, here’s another perspective: close your eyes.
I invite you to consider that vision is only one way we acquire information and get our bearings.
If you’ve lost your way or can’t find what you’re looking for, maybe it’s worth considering that it’s not that you’re looking in the wrong place, but that you’re using the wrong sense.
More on this in the next chapter.
There are so many seeing/sight/vision metaphors that I didn’t cover here. What are your favorites?
Please contribute in the comments.