Excerpt About Eyes

Contemplating the Meaning of Presence

We want to inquire into the meaning of presence by contemplating and analyzing the actual experience of presence. Let us examine a familiar situation, the aesthetic experience. My eyes catch the sight of a beautiful red rose. Suddenly, my sight is clearer, my smelling is keener. I seem to be in my seeing, I seem to be in my smelling. There is more of me here, seeing, smelling, and appreciating the rose. This phenomenon is not simply one of increased awareness, so that more of the rose is experienced through my eyes and nostrils, so that more of the rose is experienced through my perceptual system. In the experience of increased presence, it is as if I meet my perceptions midway. It is as if something of me, something more or less palpable, is present in my eyes and in my nose. Something in me besides my perceptual channels is participating in the experience of the rose. And this something is not memory, not past associations with roses. In a sense, my greater awareness actually enhances the presence of the rose, or of any aesthetic object, such as a piece of music or a painting.

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