I’m reading Rachel Corbett’s book, You Must Change Your Life, The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin.

When Rodin suggested to Rilke that he hone his craft by viewing animals, Rilke recalled the teachings of professor Theodor Lipps, a process of conscious observation called “inseeing”.

“Inseeing described the wondrous voyage from the surface of a thing to its heart, wherein perception leads to an emotional connection. Rilke made a point of distinguishing unseeing from inspecting, a term which he thought described only the viewer’s perspective, and thus often resulted in anthropomorphizing. Inseeing, on the other hand, took into account the object’s point of view. It has as much to do with making things human as it did with making humans thing.”

“If faced with a rock, for instance, one should stare deep into the place where the rockness begins to form. Then the observer should keep looking until his own center starts to sink with the stony weight of the rock forming inside him, too. It is a kind of perception that takes place within the body, and it requires the observer to be both the seer and the seen. To observe with empathy, one sees not only with the eyes but the skin.”

Rilke, enthralled, wrote to a friend: “Though you may laugh if I tell you where my very greatest feeling, my world-feeling, my earthly bliss was, I must confess to you: it was, again and again, here and there, in such in-seeing in the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments of this godlike in-seeing.”

Rilke saw this in-seeing, as empathy, as a way to free himself from the solitude of his mind.

Last night we could watch ten candidates tell us why they should be president. We now have analysis and interpretation of what was said and different interpretations of who “won” and by how much. Perhaps it is for each of us to step into our own in-seeing, our own empathy with each candidate, and feel our way to who can best lead our country now.

Entering into a gardenia, that heavenly scent.

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