On Looking

ebook About Everything There is to See

By Alexandra Horowitz

cover image of On Looking

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You are missing at least eighty percent of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. In marshalling your attention to these words, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses.
This ignorance is useful: indeed, we compliment it and call it concentration. It enables us to not just notice the shapes on the page, but to absorb them as intelligible words, phrases, ideas. Alas, we tend to bring this focus to every activity we do. In so doing, it is inevitable that we also bring along attention's companion: inattention to everything else.
This book begins with that inattention. It is not a book about how to bring more focus to your reading of Tolstoy; it is not about how to multitask, attending to two or three or four tasks at once. It is not about how to avoid falling asleep at a public lecture, or at your grandfather's tales of boyhood misadventures. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived 'ordinary'. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities - taking a walk around the block - we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives. This book is about that walk around the block, and how to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities.
On Looking