4.19.2020

Witnessing Others, or Soft Eyes (video)


Seeing is not neutral or natural: it is taught. As John Berger's argued in his incredible, Ways of Seeing, men have a tendency to gaze at women, at life, with a certain will to penetrate, dominate, and such — the so-called 'male gaze.'  
To see is to be undone, necessarily. Seeing takes place in the middle voice. Ask yourself: is seeing active or passive? Do you see that tree? Ss that tree having its way with you? The phallic gaze is an attempt to wrest control from the world, a transparently absurd gesture. 
The painter, psychoanalyst, and theorist, Bracha Ettinger, posits a different gaze, what she called the matrixial gaze, coming from the womb: a pre-subjective mode of holding the other as constitutive of oneself. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mat... 
I refer to to this as 'soft eyes' which I borrow from The Wire: to see generously, without judgement. I also reference Merleau-Ponty's The Intertwining. http://timothyquigley.net/cont/mp-chi...

2 comments:

TomG said...

Interestingly enough my kids learned to watch with "soft eyes" when they learned karate (taekwondo), to watch their opponent with no anticipation, not looking for anything, to see only what did come out of them and react just to it. To me the kind of confidence it takes to do that — I try to do that taking tests — was the best thing they got out of it.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Tom! So sorry I missed this comment. I love this so much; it is an art, to see softly. I love thinking about it in terms of combat — which, of course, is like any other relationship only faster and more intense. All the more reason to see softly. It's a great exercise to teach young.

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