#2: To look upon something is to see the thing in relation to oneself
If you're not sure what's going on here, see the previous post.
Seeing is not a neutral act; the relationship between seeing and knowing is never settled. One is always considering, naturally, things from a certain, limited perspective. Perspective is a useful word here, because it can be taken to mean:
- The physical viewpoint from which one sees
- The emotional lens through which one sees
- The cognitive lens through which one sees.
One’s physical viewpoint is limited in that it is unidirectional; to move the gaze to something is to move the gaze away from something. But the key is that everything centres around the self; giving rise to 'Narrativist perspectives of life', which frame it as an accumulation of significant events: main character energy.
What soon becomes apparent from this line of thinking is the idea that we can never know what it feels like to be another, so how can we connect and grow? Indeed, this can have horrid consequences, because the image encourages voyeurism, not involvement, as Sontag writes. This is because what we see becomes an image; the eye is a camera, capturing. Berger writes that "An image became a record of how X had seen Y. This was the result of an increasing consciousness of individuality, accompanying an increasing awareness of history."
The act of seeing is an act of image-making.
This does not need to be a bad thing, necessarily. Seeing others in relation to the self is vital if any sort of compassionate connection is to be made. One has to understand how one might relate oneself to another if one is to form a connection. In relation to this, Communal Sharing Relationships (CSRs) are developed as the result of the fact that human beings mirror others: people respond well to mutual mirroring. But such mirroring can be used as a tool for manipulation, such as how Impression Management sees self-construction and social performance as a game of misrepresentation. Ultimately, the self is not a fixed entity: it is a social process, as per Goffman's Theory of the Presentation of the Self.
Ways of Seeing, John Berger (Book)
We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.