On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
From the author of the #1 New York Times giant bestseller Inside of a Dog comes an equally smart, delightful, and startling exploration of how we perceive our surroundings.
From the author of the giant #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog comes an equally smart, delightful, and startling exploration of how we perceive and discover our world.
Alexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.” On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. She also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.
As the million-plus readers of Inside of a Dog have discovered, Alexandra Horowitz is charmingly adept at explaining the mysteries of human perception. Trained as a cognitive scientist, she discovers a feast of fascinating detail, all explained with her generous humor and self-deprecating tone. On Looking presents the same engaging combination, this time in service to understanding how human beings encounter their daily worlds and each other.
Page by page, Horowitz shows how much more there is to see—if only we would really look. On Looking is nutrition for the considered life, serving as a provocative response to our relentlessly virtual consciousness. So turn off the phone and other electronic devices and be in the real world—where strangers communicate by geometry as they walk toward one another, where sounds reveal shadows, where posture can display humility, and the underside of a leaf unveils a Lilliputian universe—where, indeed, there are worlds within worlds within worlds.
Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking confirms her place as one of today’s most illuminating observers of our infinitely complex world.
why I spent several eye-crossing days trying to sort out, simply, what schist is. Follow me here: your brain will begin to change as you do. Schist is metamorphic rock. Schist comes from a Greek word for split; metamorphic simply means “it changed forms”: and in these word histories lie almost the entire story. For schist, the change of form was monumental. It started as mud or clay on the ocean floor. A couple of hundred million years ago, in an era that shall remain nameless, continents
shops, and citizens on the whole quite similar to those of my current city, the differences stood out as bas-relief. The sidewalks were narrower, befitting a place slightly older than my neighborhood. Buildings were on the whole shorter, allowing me to feel towering at five feet nine. The urban horizon was farther away: from some streets I could see to the next street, or to the next neighborhood, quite unlike the blindered, cavernous view one gets on a New York City street. Alleys interrupted
the elevator, tying shoes—and before that, doing a going-to-tie-our-shoes march down the hall. To him, we were miles into our walk. A walk is exploring surfaces and textures with finger, toe, and—yuck—tongue; standing still and seeing who or what comes by; trying out different forms of locomotion (among them running, marching, high-kicking, galloping, scooting, projectile falling, spinning, and noisy shuffling). It is archeology: exploring the bit of discarded candy wrapper; collecting a fistful
always go directly to the message. He sniffed around it, as though not sure where it was. A dog’s vision, though not nearly identical to ours, surely lets him see what I saw here. Finn could see the urine mark, but he was “scanning” the area, just as we scan a scene with our eyes. To see a scene is not to stare fixedly at one point; it is to open our eyes to everything in front of us, looking to and fro. Similarly, to smell a scene, Finn approached it from the side, from above, sniffing the air
professional attenders or lookers—reproached themselves for not paying good enough attention. Do not sag with exhaustion. There is no mandate; only opportunity. Our culture fosters inattention; we are all creatures of that culture. But by making your way through this book—by merely picking it up, perhaps—you, reader, are in a new culture, one that values looking. The unbelievable strata of trifling, tremendous things to observe are there for the observing. Look! Sources CHAPTER EPIGRAPHS