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pieperMan’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and again. We do not mean here, of course, the physiological sensitivity of the human eye. We mean the spiritual capacity to perceive the visible reality as it truly is….

The capacity to perceive the visible world “with our own eyes” is indeed an essential constituent of human nature. We are talking here about man’s essential inner richness—or, should the threat prevail, man’s most abject inner poverty. And why so? To see things is the first step toward that primordial and basic mental grasping of reality, which constitutes the essence of man as a spiritual being.

Before you can express anything in tangible form, you first need eyes to see. The mere attempt, therefore, to create an artistic form compels the artist to take a fresh look at the visible reality; it requires authentic and personal observation. Long before a creation is completed, the artist has gained for himself another and more intimate achievement: a deeper and more receptive vision, a more intense awareness, a sharper and more discerning understanding, a more patient openness for all things quiet an inconspicuous, an eye for things previously overlooked. In short: the artist will be able to perceive with new eyes the abundant wealth of all visible reality, and, thus challenged, additionally acquires the inner capacity to absorb into his mind such an exceedingly rich harvest. The capacity to see increases….

The distinguishing and characterizing element in the artistic creativity we celebrate today lies, as I am convinced, in this: we witness an expression of the contemplative life, the vita contemplativa….

For even the most intensive seeing and beholding may not yet be true contemplation. Rather, the ancient expression of the mystic supplies here: ubi amor, ibi oculus – the eyes see better when guided by love; a new dimension of “seeing” is opened up by love alone! And this means contemplation is visual perception prompted by loving acceptance!

I hold that this is the specific mark of seeing things in contemplation: it is motivated by loving acceptance, by an affectionate affirmation. Nothing would be more alien to our sculptor friend and her work than to revile, despise, and distort reality, or explicitly to destroy all ordered form.

Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation

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  1. The Country of the Blind
    by C.S. Lewis

    Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men,
    Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed. A long
    Process, clearly, a slow curse,
    Drained through centuries, left them thus.

    At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few,
    No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date,
    Normal type had achieved snug
    Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn;

    Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their
    Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some
    Eunuch’d, etiolated,
    Fungoid sense, as a symbol of

    Abstract thoughts. If a man, one that had eyes, a poor
    Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green-
    Sloped sea waves, or admired how
    Warm tints change in a lady’s cheek,

    None complained he had used words from an alien tongue,
    None question’d. It was worse. All would agree ‘Of course,’
    Came their answer. “We’ve all felt
    Just like that.” They were wrong. And he

    Knew too much to be clear, could not explain. The words —
    Sold, raped flung to the dogs — now could avail no more;
    Hence silence. But the mouldwarps,
    With glib confidence, easily

    Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set
    Fools concocting a myth, taking the words for things.
    Do you think this a far-fetched
    Picture? Go then about among

    Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once,
    Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable,
    Dread but dear as a mountain-
    Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.

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