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landscape with rocks over water

In the article Read and understand the rock I talked about what prevents a clear view of reality. But in order to see first we must observe. A rock climber who is able to observe with extraordinary receptivity have a tremendous power, he can see immediately what others can see only after a long research.

How to carefully observe the reality and how to become a good observer?

The first step is to create the conditions in which the observation can flourish. Certainly it will be hard to be a good observer when you are on the limit of your strength. You'll notice that when you're tired your ability to see the holds is worse, and even worse when you're not relaxed. The best way to start developing the power of observation is in more favorable environments, when you are not exposed to fatigue and tension. I have started with architecture: a professor during an examination pointed out, that on top of a building near the faculty of architecture were some beautiful statues. I had never noticed them, yet I passed under there almost every day. Exactly the same happens on the rock wall, there are holds and you do not notice them because you are focused on other actions. So I decided to look more carefully, but I was not trying to do it while climbing, rather I watched with attention all the rest: the buildings, the streets, the materials and the details of objects. At the beginning somehow I had to force myself, but then I realized that it was only a matter of relaxation and of "slow living". Later also on the rock became natural to me seeing more clearly. Finally I was able to see and discover immediately what before took me long research on the rock.

How to open your eyes and how Proust can change your way of seeing the rock

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
(Marcel Proust)
I'm reading the beautiful book of Alain de Botton: How Proust Can Change Your Life. In particular in the chapter How to open your eyes you will find many tips regarding the observation of art , but it only takes a bit of imagination to use this tips for rock climbing:
Great painters posses such power to open our eyes because of the unusual receptivity of their own eyes to aspects of visual experience; to the play of light on the end of a spoon, the fibrous softness of a tablecloth, the velvety skin of a peach or the pinkish tones of an old man's skin. We might caricature the history of art as a succession of geniuses engaged in pointing out different elements worthy of our attention, a succession of painters using their immense technical mastery to say what amounts to, 'Aren't those back streets in Delft pretty?' or 'Isn't the Seine nice outside Paris?' And in Chardin's case, to say to the world, and some of the dissatisfied young men within it, 'Look not just at Roman campagna, the pageantry of Venice and the proud expression of Charles I astride his horse, but also, have a look at the bowl on the sideboard, the dead fish in your kitchen and the crusty bread loaves in the hall.' (Alain de Botton)

Having a look at the things that at first glance appear as of secondary importance is fundamental. In rock climbing like in life, if you are searching the holds that you would like to have, you'll miss your chance to see the less attractive but more useful ones. The observation have to be developed with patience, and is better to start from fields not related to climbing: art can be a perfect start, like architecture, landscape or people.

Marcel Proust is saying that with attention and observation you can see the reality, and at the same time you can also discover new things inside it:

If I knew this young man I should not try to prevent his going to the Louvre; rather I should accompany him. But leading him through the La Caze gallery and through the gallery of eighteenth-century French painting or through the Rubens or some other French gallery, I would have him stop in front of the Chardins. And once he was dazzled by this rich painting of what he calls mediocrity, this zestful painting of a life that he finds tasteless, this great art depicting a subject that he considers mean, I would say to him: "This makes you happy, doesn't it? Yet what more have you seen here than a well-to-do middle-class woman pointing out to her daughter the mistakes he has made in her tapestry work (La Mere laborieuse); a woman carrying bread (La Pourvoyeuse); the interior of a kitchen where a live cat is trampling on some oysters while a dead fish hangs on the wall, and an already half-cleared sideboard on which some knives are scattered on the cloth (Fruits et animaux); and even less impressive, some kitchen or dining-room dishes, not only pretty ones like Dresden chocolate-pots (Ustensiles varies), but a shiny lid, all shapes and kinds of pot~; sights that repel you likea dead fish sprawled on a table (La Raie) and sights that disgust you like half emptied glasses and too many glasses left full (Fruits et animaux)? If all of this now seems to you beautiful to look at, it is because Chardin found it beautiful to paint. And he found it beautiful to paint because he found it beautiful to look at.

Your awareness had to wait until Chardin entered the scene to raise it to his level of pleasure. Then you recognized it and, for the first time, appreciated it. If, when looking at Chardin, you can say to yourself, "This is intimate, this is comfortable, this is as living as a kitchen," then, when you are walking around a kitchen, you will say to yourself, 'This is special, this is great, is as beautiful as a Chardin." Chardin may have been merely a man who enjoyed his dining-room, among the fruits and glasses, but he was also a man with a sharper awareness, whose pleasure was so intense that it overflowed into smooth strokes, eternal colors. You, too, will be a Chardin, not so great, perhaps, but great to the , extent that you love him, identify yourself with him, become like him, a person for . whom metal and stoneware are living and to whom fruit speaks. And when they see how he reveals their secrets to you they will no longer avoid confiding them to you yourself.
We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone. The painter has proclaimed the divine equality of all things before the spirit that contemplates the light that embellishes them. He has brought us out of a false ideal to penetrate deeply into reality, to find therein everywhere a beauty no longer the feeble prisoner of convention or false taste, but free, strong, universal, opening the world to us. And he launches us on a sea of beauty....
(Marcel Proust, "Chardin and Rembrandt", 1895, published in The Literary Barber, March 27, 1954)

Observing from different point of views

Do you remember what is saying the teacher in the movie Dead Poets Society when he stand on his desk?
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

You can see this as an philosophical position or you can see it as a practical tip. This is actually a really practical tip: the movement is basic for the perception of the word around us. If we stay still in one place the vision of the things around us is incomplete. On the rock, a hold, from a certain angle can appear as good hold, and you can discover that from another perspective is useless.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and abottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
"I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes" replies Watson.
"And what do you deduce from that?"
Watson ponders for a minute.
"Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe... What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!" he says. "Someone has stolen our tent!"


Ivo Buda