“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
Just like Christopher Columbus or Marco Polo, I believe each of us came to this planet hardwired to explore, to push out, to grow and to evolve — to discover new parts of ourselves and our world we have not seen before. While visiting the J. Paul Getty Museum, perched high on a hill overlooking Los Angeles, I had a demonstration of how, sometimes, we tend to overcomplicate the process of new discovery. Pushing out and growing doesn’t always mean getting into a Land Rover and seeking new terrain or a sailing vessel searching for new land or flying on a rocket ship exploring outer space. Sometimes the greatest discoveries are made by exploring inner space, in the cracks and crevices of our belief system, which has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves and our world. In other words, new discovery is also an inside job that invites us to see our lives and our world, right where we are, from a new perspective.
While strolling the grounds of the new Getty, which has only been there since 1997, I happened upon the setting for what would become a Kodak moment photograph. Standing on an elevated plateau off the backside of the museum, I was moved first by the beauty of the lush and open landscape, and then my eye was drawn to the most unusual ultramodern red-metal sculpture. After I snapped a photograph, I stood there staring at this very unique work of art, trying to interpret what the artist who created it was saying. I got nothing! About five minutes later, my gazed softened and lifted to the horizon behind the sculpture, and I was captivated by the tall buildings several miles off in the city of Los Angeles, which have been there for many years — I knew the buildings in that area well, because I had driven by them many times. I had just never seen them from this elevated perspective. It was a breathtaking moment — it gave me a new appreciation for “old” Los Angeles, a place I have known for more than a half century, but have seldom seen this beautiful. Perhaps the artist placed the sculpture in that very spot just for me to have my own personal epiphany. As Marcel Proust infers, we don’t really have to discover new landscapes to be in the creative process of discovery, sometimes we simply need to change our perspective, to elevate it and see what we already know so well through new eyes.
This is a metaphor that is applicable to just about every area of our life when we stop and consider it. Sometimes it’s easy to become stale, bored, jaded or shortsighted in how we see our lives, our relationships, our physical bodies, our jobs, the home in which we live, the community in which we live, the country in which we live and even the car we drive. When we start taking these things for granted because we are so near to them, we fail to see the precious role they play in the big picture of our daily lives. At those times, it may be tempting to seek new landscapes, that is, to look elsewhere for our inspiration, fulfillment and contentment. Perhaps what we need is not a new relationship, job, home, community or car. Perhaps what is need is a new perspective, to see what lies before us with new eyes.
If this metaphor resonates with you, I invite you to consider the fact that if you have eyes to see this article on your computer screen (let alone the meaning of the aforementioned metaphor) you are very blessed. If you have a relationship in which you find peace, love and companionship, you are very blessed. The same can be said about your job, physical well-being, home, community, country, car and so on. The practice is to remember that to discover new things about yourself, your life and your world, you don’t always have to seek new landscapes. Just lift your perspective a bit, and see the beauty and blessings that already lie in front you through new eyes. Then feel the gratitude well up from within.
If you have not experienced the Getty Museum, the next time you visit the Los Angeles area I encourage you make a point to see it with your own eyes. It may change your perspective about a few things as it did mine. Perhaps the artist who created and placed that sculpture where he or she did, did so with great intention. Perhaps he or she knew it wasn’t just about the unique sculpture alone. Perhaps the artist intended to use the backdrop of a much bigger picture as part of his or her creation — naturally drawing the viewer’s eye to the horizon, where every person will see what is theirs to see. As Thoreau wrote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Given this perspective, what you see when you look at your life and your world truly is a work of art. You really don’t have to go all that far on your voyage of discovery to find something new. You just need to have new eyes.