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“Do you see now?” The voice rang in my ears as I shook my head for the umpteenth time. My eyes were tightly shut, trying to hold back the tears of anger and frustration. When I opened them again, the world looked to me as it always did; only now the leaves above seemed to be mocking me as they chuckled in the breeze. Why couldn’t I see?
I was nine years old, lying under the tree for the third time that week, with my art teacher, Mr. Hayes, sitting beside me. The exercise was starting to feel useless; I was supposed to be learning how to see. “But I already know how to see!” I cried out desperately, hoping that we would go inside and sketch apples instead.
“The way an artist sees,” my teacher said calmly, “is not the same as everyone else. You must learn to see from a different angle, see what’s behind, see the light.” Not knowing what he meant, I turned over with a groan, thinking that I would never learn to see like an artist.
Yet I found myself under that same tree one afternoon, a few weeks after Mr. Hayes had left me on my own to learn how to see. I was feeling more disheartened than ever, but I refused to believe that I was incapable of the simple task of seeing. My eyes strained so hard that tears were beginning to brim. I closed them for a second, and when I opened them again… the trunk rose majestically, thick and stocky at the bottom but vanishing to a point at its tip. See from a different angle. The leaves melted into a canvas of green as the sky beyond coalesced into splendid shapes of piercing azure. See what’s behind. The canopy above shimmered and glowed in the sun. See the light. Finally I saw. I sat up from the shock. It was all so simple, and a new world stretched before my eyes.
Nothing has looked the same since the day I learned to see, but it was not until years later that I realized the greater significance of what I had discovered. The value of seeing does not just apply to art. It holds true for everything in life. Whether I am sitting in the classroom or reading a newspaper article, I strive to see: see differently, see beyond, see the light. When I find a piece of history that interests me, I search for different accounts of it to see from other perspectives. When I meet someone new, I look past his appearance to see what is hidden beneath the facade. When I study a scientific concept, I not only focus on the technicalities, but also dig deeper to see what else it might reflect. Simply by seeking to see, the wonders I discover in the world multiply right before my eyes.
The moment of clarity I experienced when I first learned to see will remain with me forever, but it was only the first of many such moments. From learning to see as an artist, I had learned to see as an individual. I aspire to nothing more than to see, and through seeing, live a life more intense and more human. “Do you see now?” Those four simple words my art teacher once asked me long ago still resonate within me, and I know that his question is one I will be asking myself for the rest of my life.
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