The Seen and the Unseen

“What is seen is transient, the unseen is eternal.” 

“They could not see the forest for the trees.”

Several different types of “seeing” are evident in the two aphorisms quoted above.  The first is speaking to the “unseen” as non-physical objects, ideas or entities that are not visible.  The second is speaking to the “unseen” as material objects or entities that are visible or to knowledge or ideas that can be visualized only mentally.  In either case, the unseen “things” are those to which the observer has been blinded by their own different focus, myopia (visual or intellectual) or by the “things” being obscured to their views by the actions of others.

Are You Prepared to See? - Even What Has Passed Before? (c)2013 R.D.Bosch

Are You Prepared to See? – Even What Has Passed Before? (c)2013 R.D.Bosch

Of course, another cause is that the “thing” simply was not “there” before, or was in a different form when previously encountered in thought, word or deed.

The “forest” idiom is of uncertain origin, while the other statement has a known source, 2 Corinthians 4:18 in The Bible:

“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

(The Lutheran Study Bible, English Standard Version, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2009).

As to the second, although I have not found even a conjecture about the original source, Joseph Wood Krutch, in his wonderful book The Desert Year (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1985) identifies the essence:

“The rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing.”

It follows on the old proverb about willful or naïve blindness,

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” 

Look Up! (Hiding in Plain View).  Ravenna- S.Appollinare Nuovo (c)2013 R.D.Bosch

Look Up! (Hiding in Plain View). Ravenna- S.Appollinare Nuovo (c)2013 R.D.Bosch

We all have encountered many examples of each type of “unseen” in the world, perhaps the most often referring to ideas – the “light bulb” over the head kind of thing, the sudden revelation or discovery of what was actually there all along yet sometimes unseen by us or by anyone else.

This type of “new” seeing usually involves the input of others, exposure to previously un-encountered places and knowledge.  Often, the “!Eureka!” moment, new invention or discovery occurs as a result of a bunch of “tinkering” on our part – playing with, sorting out, cogitating upon, willfully exploring, “kit-bashing” or any other form of trying new ways of acquiring, assembling or creating new constructs from existing things and ideas.

Roger von Oech’s seminal works “A Whack on the Side of the Head” and “A Kick in the Seat of the Pants” are highly recommended for your reading – and cogitating – pleasure.  Roger has a remarkable grasp of creative, innovative methods and the self-imposed (whether by nature or nurture, ego or community) blocks that prevent or discourage their use.  They are still in print, going strong, and enjoyable (see the “Bibliography” page, your favorite book store or Roger von Oech’s site at  to track them down).  Please remember that “Chance favors the prepared mind”

CAUTION: You may be impelled or compelled to give up your willful blindness to both

The Seen and The Unseen!


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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