Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

Eyes and No-Eyes

Midweek Devotion #13

October 14, 2015

Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

I came across this painting in the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and I took this photo of it. The vibrancy and life of the painting is preserved almost entirely. I find it breathtaking.

I also came across a narrative recently, and I wanted to share it. It was written around the turn of the last century, by a startlingly good philosopher and writer named Evelyn Underhill. It matched the spirit of the Monet painting perfectly.

The old story of Eyes and No-Eyes is really the story of the mystical and unmystical types. “No-Eyes” has fixed his attention on the fact that he is obliged to take a walk. For him the chief factor of existence is his own movement along the road; a movement which he intends to accomplish as efficiently and comfortably as he can. He asks not to know what may be on either side of the hedges. He ignores the caress of the wind until it threatens to remove his hat. He trudges along, steadily, diligently; avoiding the muddy pools, but oblivious of the light which they reflect.

“Eyes” takes the walk too: and for him it is a perpetual revelation of beauty and wonder. The sunlight inebriates him, the winds delight him, the very effort of the journey is a joy. Magic presences throng the roadside, or cry salutations to him from the hidden fields. The rich world through which he moves lies in the fore-ground of his consciousness; and it gives up new secrets to him at every step.

“No-Eyes,” when told of his adventures, usually refuses to believe that both have gone by the same road. He fancies that his companion has been floating about in the air, or beset by agreeable hallucinations. We shall never persuade him to the contrary unless we persuade him to look for himself.

—Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism

This is the difference between really looking, really reflecting, really experiencing the world, and merely going about our business. Monet was on a walk with his wife and son, and “saw” through the ordinariness of it. Ironically, impressionism has always been thought to be about the “surface” of things – light reflected off surfaces, bright colors, and also “surfacy” subject matters such as high society walks through a garden. Yet I see what Evelyn Underhill, what Monet saw, a magic presence in the wind and in our consciousness of it.

Take a GoodMinute

If I am honest, do I act more like Eyes or No-Eyes?

Will today be a mystical or an unmystical day for me?

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