Learning To "SEE"

Many years ago when exposed to ample scientific periodicals and writings in the assisting of my ex-husband in his own studies and then in his teaching of science, I ran acoss one account which shook me to my core. It is about a scientist, written by a scientist, in a scientific setting, to explain specific scientific research and his personal scientific dilemma.

From it, I could easily extract some of the wisest, most applicable-to-life, eye-opening lessons I’d run across; lessons which would abide with me from then on, over 45 years ago.

It recently occurred to me quite dramatically again, impelling me to try to share it here without diluting that message which had so vividly impressed me. I might have just summarized an interpretive review of it which somehow would lack the effective 'punch line' in it, which is "now there are two of us who know that." Instead, have shared the piece here in order to not distract from it in any measure.

SEEING, in the sense of "getting it" oneself, internalizing it from then on for use and application to other similar challenges was what impressed me as the essence of the article, seeing being the progeny of the processes of teaching and learning which it employed and describes so vividly.

I find that I have no better means of sharing it with you but to share it in its entirety, (via referral to a link where it is fully displayed since HP disallowed quoting it here), if you will bear with me.

I make no claim of expertise on the scientific material and study being conducted nor knowledge of any further aspects of the lives of either scientist involved in this account. My purpose is not to argue or to defend that research being conducted, though it has its own relevance and value.

But no, my sole purpose and connection with it in this present hub is in having read it and applied its principle at a critical time of my intellectual and emotional life, by being able and impelled to apply it in my own development and now wishing to mention the process here, derived from the manner in which the student was able to learn what the teacher intended him to discover on his own.

it provided an insight which assisted me - and still does - in my personal endurance of what I've called "my fertile flux” times of floundering and reaching almost blindly for a crucial truth or insight with a determination and a faith to find it, though the present moments may seem unyielding and dim. It is an enlightening awareness as one must bear with and feel confident when a loved one is enduring a similar tribulation which we hope leads to an epiphany of personal realization and enlightenment for which the only real realization will be to discover it on his/her own. Trying to direct or explain their course is universally counter-productive, I have found.


The account to which I refer is of the public domain, but I want to give full credit to its author and its setting, which go back over a century into the past.


Nathaniel S. Shaler
Nathaniel S. Shaler

The Author?

The selection is from The Autobiography of Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, reprinted in Houston Peterson, ed., Great Teachers (Vintage Books, l946) pp. 213-215. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was one of the founders of modern American science; Shaler was dean of the scientific school at Harvard from l891-1906.


The Setting?


This writing by Shaler was penned during and/or about his student days, as he studied under the dominion of a famous scientist and teacher Louis Agassiz.


The incident took place about 1859 and is one of the more famous in the annals of college teaching.


Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz

The Teacher?


Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873 was a Swiss-American naturalist, whose outstanding comparative anatomy studies took a center position, promulgating the glacial theory and opposing Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.




Paleontology was emerging as a new science when Agassiz's came forward; as speculations about the distribution of species and their relationships to each other were being highlighted by naturalists, science was assuming an increasingly important place in educational curricula. Agassiz's role in the developments was major, both in Europe and in America.

Harvard
Harvard

The Writing: "HOW AGASSIZ TAUGHT ME TO SEE"

That this hub was tagged as containing too much material from other sites when I included the 'story' here, and that a request to make the quoted material a lesser portion would have been impossible without loss of its message are the reasons for explanations and referral to the full quote on another site.

I believed that there was a valid reason for quoting it in full here and that it was in no danger of crossing into questionable use of others' work. It is not a long piece and seemed to me be be balanced with my original introduction. I'm capable or paraphrasing it adequately, but I've simply too much respect for the writer and the personal account in the contents to do so. I believe it has enormous value in the way it concentrated attention on the material as it was originally written, as it had for me upon first reading it in that format.

However, the rules of HP thought otherwise and I was reprimanded for quoting the entire account of Shaler's experience in this hub. Realizing there is no way to satisfactorily paraphrase it without diluting it too much, I simply removed the entire quote here and substituted a link to the full quote elsewhere (see link above). When you go to that other site to read the story there, you'll still be able to fit it into the settings provided here, which I hope help to enhance it, so that nothing need be sacrificed in your getting a 'picture' of how it unfolded back then.

I trust you will appreciate and derive value from this glimpse into how various complicated information must be passed along when, to be of value, it must be literally 'discovered' by oneself, rather than being 'nstalled, prepackaged', if it is to be internalized and to become always available to oneself in any further expanding of one's understanding of the material, whether that material is concerning some ancient fish or is applicable to the everyday business of living well by applying the special perceptions derived from the lessons so internalized. A teacher is merely the 'conductor' when it comes to imparting vital knowledge and understanding to another person. Its method requires no explanation or justification; and in fact, would only detract from the 'getting it' oneself - if it is to be 'gotten'. If and when it is, no credit can really be given to the 'teacher' other than to have allowed one to 'find' it oneself, who can take full credit for and use of having gotten it!




Unless otherwise attributed, all design, graphics and written material herein are original and copyrighted by Nellieanna H. Hay.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This material is protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from Nellieanna H. Hay.

© 2010 Nellieanna Hay

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30 comments

SilverGenes 6 years ago

Learning to see is the most stubbornly difficult of all tasks, at least to me, for I am easily distracted by conclusions. How wise to avoid all conversation, at least initially. I will be back to read this again and many times more. "Now we see through a glass darkly" and without patience and perseverance, we will live our lives without ever removing the stylish sunglasses that make our travail all the more difficult. Thumbs up and thank you for even more lessons :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

I have often recalled this story and thought of sharing it but hadn't come up with a good way to present it. To try to paraphrase it just doesn't do it justice and waters down the entire lesson of it. But today it just seemed to direct its own course onto my hubpage.

Thank you, dear Alexandra! It bears refreshing in one's mind periodically, I find - in mine!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

It gets pretty murky too often. It gets really murky at the voting booths. Thank you Nellieanna!


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

I suppose the point is that patience and thoroughness is the key to success. Thank you for that lesson Nellieanna.


DavePrice profile image

DavePrice 6 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

Learning to see, and not just to scan and summarize, is a lifelong pursuit that never truly is accomplished. I came across this story myself some years ago, but had forgotten it. Thank you for bringing it back to the forefront of my thoughts at a wonderfully opportune moment.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Micky - oh yes, some things one sees are unsavoury but the only way they ever get improved is when & if they fall into the line of focus, right? Thank you for your response!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Christopheranton, yes - it is the point when those graces are what are required. They may not always be required, but one must persist when they are. As it turns out, when resolutions are most needed and critical is when patience and thoroughness are most required - along with a measure of stubborn faith!

Thanks for the good comment, my friend.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Amazing. This story illustrates the necessity to "wait and see." I once had an experience where I could not leave the house for an extended period of time. At first, I complained to God that this was unfair and He should do something about it! Well, of course, that was not the answer...I learned how to wait and be still. Out of that stillness, creativity was reborn within me. My life had become too muddied with activity to allow what was within to come forth. In waiting, a valuable lesson was learned. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

How true, Dave. At times I can literally feel the effort of really getting into the subject rather than just skimming over it. There are so many worthwhile things to claim one's full attention that it can call for that special determination to really center one's focus to accurately SEE what is there. It may be impossible to always follow through but then the trick is to accurately judge where it is critical to do so and where it would be nice, but is less urgent. I admit I sometimes see everything within my prime area of focus as too important to overlook. I will have already minimized lesser things but it seems that the "top priority" items just increase as the lower ones are minimized! LOL.

Glad your memory of this story was stirred. When it just popped back into my focus today I felt very happy to see it too. And I thank you for your input!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

FloBe - thank YOU for sharing that personal story of the value of waiting and seeing. I've learned well the value of backing off and letting the answers that are there come forth. Sometimes we can try so hard to find them, we push them out of sight! My Dad was famous for "sleeping on it" when faced with big problems and decisions. Inevitably, he's awake with a good solution almost completely worked out! It was a good example for me. And on the other hand, Mother had a talent for "doing something" - which often provided just the needed distraction from the problem to give it time to gel. Amazing how we learn, isn't it?

Thank you so much for your response!! Great to see you too, by the way!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

I love the story. Learning about something takes so much more than simple, direct observation.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

How true that is, Dolores. Many subjects require a lifetime of study and observation and are never fully exhausted. There is always finer-tuning to be done, if one really wants to get into a subject. Even movies. They bear re-watching. It's amazing how much one sees that was missed the first time or preceding times! I'm into Jane Austen's stories - and on DVD at the moment. I just keep watching them! Only 6, all told, so the supply is limited, but the quality is so exquisite!

Thanks for stopping and sharing your own keen observation!


daydreamer13 profile image

daydreamer13 6 years ago

Very interseting! Voted up!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

So glad you stopped by, daydreamer! It really is quite amazing, isn't it?


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

That is one thing I am completely lost. I can fall over an elephant. I am hopeles in looking. Thank you for such a brilliant hub.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

haha - well - lots of folks have vision problems. hehe

In my family there used to be a joke that someone was so blind or unaware that he or she could "fall off the carpet"! Now that is really being unobservant! In fact it is hard to visualize, but to show how gullible I am - I still try to picture it in my mind! LOL

Thank you for the wonderful visit and comments.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

This is an amazing truth and metaphor. It takes time, patience and persistence to see what there is to see in anything, even in something more common and boring than a fish.

This phrase sent my thoughts flying: “That is not right.”

LOL. For example a tree without leaves in summer – that is not right. But in winter that is right. I believe we may never classify something as right or wrong if we do not consider the circumstantial factors.

This was a wonderful brain-teaser, Nellieanna. A last thought – How many of us are busy looking at a ‘fish’ without trying to see what there is to see, and how many of us are busy seeing and seeing without realizing that we are actually studying a phenomenon that was once amorphous and now something going on to develop in something we yet don’t know what?

A hug and a kiss on your cheek from me.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Hello dear Martie! How true. Many overlook the most obvious, let alone the more subtle true essences of a thing, from, as you point out, the most mundane to the most celestial.

I am always reminded by "That is not right" of an account of a grade school teacher who asked her class to name a yellow fruit of vegetable she had in mind. "A lemon!" said little Sue. "No, that is not right." Little Bobby says, "A banana!". "Oh, no, Bobby, that is not right." "Corn!" says Beth. ""No, no - I am thinking of squash!"

So it was really an absurd test of mind-reading skills, not about actual knowledge. Sadly, too much like so much of formal education -- booby-trapped to stifle both good analytical thought and creativity - just a matter of learning to outfigure some teacher's trivial thought processes. Too many young students are blighted by such exposure, which is not limited to the classroom, in fact, but is enacted in many situations in which young folks are subject to short sighted authority figures.

In this story, of course, a scientific research of yet not fully known facts was in progress, but it was essential for the student to get below the superficial observations to discover the more intrinsic features of the creature being studied for evidence beyond what was then fully known. To learn to see at least what the teacher had already discovered was a fair test of the student's ability to probe and to analyze the subtle evidence available.

Of course, your application of the variable and multiple correctnesses in what actually fits the circumstances is quite valid. It is crucial to look beyond the mere impression of correctness in order to discover the full application to the specific circumstances, for sure, so long as the variables are not just arbitrary as in the teachers' choice of one of many true answers as far as being actual yellow produce! There are more than one dimension which need to be considered. But such are the possible snags for good communication and mutual understanding, sadly. Too quick a conclusion can easily lead to complete misinterpretation!

And, yes - there is the constantly changing metamorphosis of so many things being considered. When no allowance for the ongoing changing is considered and allowed in forming judgments, it provides for more misfitting and errors. I suppose it's a miracle that anything is accurately communicated! And yet sometimes it does happen!

Thank you, most esteemed friend - for more facets to be considered to the subject of seeing -! And a hug and kiss back at you!


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

My goodness, you are really a great hubLady! Your content is all over the spectrum, and is always very nicely done!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Wow - what high praise! Guess I really am multi-faceted. There is just so much of interest and my time to embrace it all is surely not forever! LOL

Thank you, Wesman. Is it OK to call you that or do you use Todd - or the whole thing? As someone with an odd name which people struggle with, I am sensitive to others' preferences about theirs!


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 6 years ago from Cotswold Hills

Hi Nellieanna,

What a great lesson from obviously a great teacher.

In life it is apparent, at least to me, that the vast majority of people base what they consider to be their own opinion when in reality it is nothing more than what they have heard or is considered most popular at the time.

Of course to go with the flow is so much easier than actually thinking for oneself and is therefore very popular !

Watching any TV programme involving adults interviwing children, of any age, will quickly show you the quirky opinions of their parents but more especially their teachers.

As they grow up the opinions of the Newspapers and TV News editors will guide their own thoughts and deeds...

To me it shows the great Darwin may have been slightly wrong about distant ancestors, either that or the missing link is a Sheep !


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Hahaha - well, I suppose if we really knew, all life is related! So sheep are somehow in the lineage, too. But we usually are arrogant enough to think, though it, too, is an arbitrary opinion, - that we humans are superior to any and all our ancestors, so which species was there to emulate? haha. We are a work in progress, however haltingly!

Actually, going with the flow in so many aspects is a requirement from the moment of emerging on the scene. Newborns are not offered a real choice to decide on the reception they get ;- they must trust what is forced on them or die. That sets up a pattern of having to balance between moves toward independence & inevitable life-determining dependency with an overwhelming seriousness of the price of defiance, which is intrinsically only slightly improved from "take the slap on the rear to get breath going or die" choice presented at that first introduction to human experience. The courage & grace to become able to defy convention & rise above general opinion is among a higher development of humanity which has yet to be perfected - akin to Maslow's "self-actualization" which is hardly known to most, much less a valid possibility for them. And even the best of the most enlightened or actualized individuals have not fully demonstrated full success and what success has been accomplished has often met with either death or the choice of being rejected as the payoff for their effort to think independently about the accepted "verities" and norms. Some manage to live on a tightrope between principle and comfort zones, with vast stretches of mixture of them in order to survive. Of course - keeping one's opinions to oneself is one way to stay out of the line of fire, but that's one of the mixtures of principle and comfort zone maintenance and result in little overall change.

Anyway - as I was posting this hub, I thought of you and how you might respond. I felt it would interest you, for sure, & you have not let me down thought you've noticed in it the seeds of a related subject I hadn't anticipated, though. But of course, it does raise the thought of and relate to the sheep-like unquestioning mentality so prevalent in the general population.

In fact education focuses on teaching to follow sheepishly. It is almost the subliminal purpose of education. As rote learning is pounded in, creative thinking is stifled and even punished. Even in this story - the student's progress was measured by his independent discovery of what the teacher already knew. Wonder how welcome to Agassiz it would have been if his student had discovered facts he didn't already know? Hm - food for thought!! Hopefully his respect for all truth would have superseded his focus on his own knowledge of it.

Thanks for a good thought provoking comment. I did know I could count on that!


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 6 years ago from Cotswold Hills

Thank you for your wonderful response which prompts one small question;

"If we really are a work in progress, don't you think it's time we went back to the drawingboard ?"


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

" I can SEE clearly now" from a song a few years back. Yet can we see clearly, many of us still wear dirty glasses over our eyes and blinders that won't allow us to see deeply with understanding into any subject we study or analyze. I know that my vision is murky and I don't believe our creator will give us perfect vision till we cross over. Life is just one big tease for the BIG event. lol


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I'm usually just "Todd," but if someone likes "Wesman," then that's okay too. :-;


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

hehe - Merlin. Thanks for an excellent idea. Just one glitch in it, or should I say - one point left unstated: The only drawing board "we" have access to is just "mine". That IS each of our challenges every moment we live. Each is designing himself/herself. Too many folks seem to think if they could just "FiX" others, it would resolve the careening human problems. But it doesn't work that way. Nature herself set it up on a one-life-to-a-customer basis to attempt to FIX things. I suppose if we could somehow operate on others and put in predesigned brains and hearts, we might sort of FIX them; - but unless we underwent ourselves the same way, we still would need to actually change and fix ourselves from inside out. If each of the critics just did that, think of the evolutionary progress!

Obviously, a population of robots isn't really the best hope. In fact that seems to be one of the objections to what is happening without the surgery! LOL Sheep or robots don't resolve the human condition. So we are stuck with the way it must be done. Self improvement and perhaps - a good influence; but no guarantee of that. Our work on ourselves is our major task.

Love you!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Ken - I loved that song. "I CAN SEE Clearly Now:" Thanks for the reminder! We can see as clearly as our deliberate practice of using our preceptors has brought to us. Many people just accept the view as seen via cursory, unfocused glances or focus on partial views; then run with them as though they WERE the clear and complete view. Unsupported premises have built-in fallibility. And when accepted as though "so" - the more so.

So yes, it's true many of us have dirty glasses or foggy vision. Many choose to accept what they see through 'em as "what is" and live accordingly. They may even grow to prefer it that way. It's more difficult to stay open to it all and even to probe for more clarity which involves admitting one's need for it.

In order to do that, though, we must metamorphose into becoming more observant, more humble and more seeing beings. There is a reason a wise person is referred to as "a seer".

When the trials which hone us appear, it's natural to resist and retreat from them. Unfortunately when we miss one lesson, the next is more difficult. It's like learning math. If you don't internalize the multiplication tables, you won't do too well in algebra. And if you miss the essence of algebra, heaven help you in trig - calculus , physics - etc. Becoming a rocket scientist begins with the multiplication tables. If this life is merely multiplication tables for our ultimate "cross-over" abilities, we had better get on with them and not wait for the big event to provide all we missed fully mastering which we could be doing here. Tiresome, but true. I know that I don't want to flunk eternity as I surely as I did trig!! LOL.

As for having to wait for full vision, I'm inclined to think that we have a range of possible clarification opportunities right here right now and if we fail to use and master those which are suitably timed & available for us now here in this life which we do know of and have to work with, we will be unprepared and can never gain lost or ignored ground for developing our better.higher perception at some later time and place, whenever and wherever that may be, or not. Plus if there were to be no later opportunity - even the more reason to get on with mastering basics of seeing here and now. Much good can come of just that much and we shall see what is opened up later.

We're not in the outside waiting room here. We're each in the lab, with ourself fully at our disposal for study and improvement as this life's project. If we have to assimilate some tough lessons to get on with it, we're fortunate to have those available too, since we can't just opt-out & excuse ourselves from the challenges here - whether or not there are to be more later.

Remember a musical titled "Stop The World, I Want To Get Off"? I saw it when we were in Phoenix when my ex was getting his masters'. I saw it with my friend Freda, performed live on the university stage by the Broadway touring cast. And, though I recall little about the story right now, I vividly remember my impression, thinking what a negative message it sent.

Yes, my world was in shambles at the time, but why would I want to abandon it in that sad condition & have no better methods and ability to respond (responsibility) for improving it rather than running off scared? Why would I wish no better memories than what I'd then dug for myself at that sad juncture?

I hadn't thought about it, but perhaps that impression helped awaken the positive spirit required to face and to work out of the pickle I'd gotten myself into, and being in a position to work it out without sacrificing all that was valuable about it, ie - my children and their having me in their life, not to mention my own value.

So I guess if life is a bit of a tease, it is our task to take up its challenge and start to wise up to the fullest extent our present preceptors afford us! Our range of vision, hearing, sensing - comprehending - all our preceptors are human, as fits our environment and can be improved further if we hone them. If another time or place is to provide better sensors, they'll need the prerequisite background we're gathering here with these we have now. I believe what lies ahead will be determined by what we take with us from now. If we have cultivated - uh - trash - we'll be saddled with it "then".

So i's essential to use this to the fullest ESPECIALLY if we are expecting a next event or stage on which to graduate and be equipped to assimilate. Minimal won't do that.

Thank you again for bringing to light other facets to consider! You're such a treasure.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Then, since either is acceptable to you, I may choose to call you Wesman because, much as I like Todd, it's my attorney's name. Wesman is unique and quite dignified. Suits! :-)

If I'm short on time, Todd is quicker. I allow people to save time by calling me Nell or Nellie, though it's not my first preference and I like to think I'm worth the extra letters in my full name - and after all, 'Hay' is short! hehe


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Three thoughts strike me about Shaler's account (which I had never read until now): learning is inhibited by preconceptions; there is always more to be seen/understood/comprehended than what first seems apparent; the teacher exists only when the student is ready.

Your "An Afterthought" section illuminates my first thought perfectly: because you quoted 837 words, the HP system assumed your Hub was not original, and that's an example of allowing preconceptions to interfere with discovery.

As usual, your Hubs make me think, and I find I could go on for quite a while in your comment section! But I won't. Let me just thank you for giving me an "eye opening" experience this morning and also for refusing to summarize Shaler's words.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS Author

Thank you, Sally - especially good comments about the learning/teaching process. So true! And it pleases me to have introduced you to this account. It's not a piece that is very generally known, though perhaps it should be. I felt impelled to share it and decided not to paraphrase or link to it. I can't feel that was a mistake, somehow.

But I confess I had NO idea how it is judged to be unoriginal! I wonder how many words less would change the classification!? Actually in my weird mind, I thought it was surely a matter of ratio - original content>quoted. I've read many hubs in which the writers' typical styles (including repetitive grammatical and spelling errors) suddenly gives way to perfect writing when it gets to the main subject, which is not presented as quotation, but as the writers' own and have seriously had to question the originality of it. So it's a bit of a puzzle to this person. Out of 71 hubs, this is the only time I've used a lengthy direct quote, only a portion of the entirety of the hub, set off in italics and quotation marks, so readily identified as such -and won the thumbs down.

The reasonableness of it apparently has no bearing. It strikes me as odd, but I guess that - with some 60,000 hubbers to police, it's necessary to use some highly arbitrary methods to get the job done and prevent blatant defiance of some reasonable rules, which I respect. It's my desire to show and work on my own original stuff and it's rarely that I reach out of my own little corner to include a lot of other material. There are a small handful of my hubs "about" others which do use some of their material or material written about them, but apparently they passed the word-test.

I truly appreciate the enlightenment, Sally. Now that I know and understand how the rules are imposed, I'll be even more careful.

Hugs.

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