Einstein: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?
Tagore: No, I do not say so.
Einstein: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?
Last December, I was discussing the nature of reality with my favourite teacher. He informed me of a conversation on the same topic between Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein, which he had called a meeting between the greatest of mystics and the most intelligent of men. Tagore insists in the excerpt above, that the truth of reality depends absolutely on the existence of an observer – a conscious being.
Creation is comprised of the observable and its observers, considered in conjunction. An observation is the ability of an observer to perceive creation. It is possessed by all beings, with humans arguably having it to the highest degree. The keener our observation, the more accurate our perception of reality is.
There are several ways to improve one’s power of observation. John Ruskin sought to do so by sketching. He quoted
Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes.
Ruskin’s underlying idea was to engage with the world more closely. Sketching was his means to achieve that end. The practice of sketching sets a sketcher up for observing the world around her more carefully. This would start off as a deliberate practice and with time and repetition, evolve into an unconscious habit.
My means to achieve the same end is writing. I seek to do this by writing about my world of books, podcasts, conversations and everyday experiences. Some of it goes into this blog. While the blog started off as a vague idea that I felt I should pursue, writing for a few days has made its reasons clearer to me.
What is also clear is that my ability to observe is merely infantile today, and I have miles to go. Nevertheless, it is a journey that I look forward to.
And it is always great to have a journey to look forward to.