Have you ever really thought about the difference between looking and seeing? They’re really just two simple verbs related to the sense of sight that we probably use hundreds of times a day. And while the differences are subtle, they are important.
It’s like this:
To see: is to notice or become aware of something. It can be intentional or unintentional. We can see something that comes into our sight that we weren’t necessarily looking. (e.g. “Hey, did you see that car drive by?”).
To look: is to direct your eyes in a particular direction. It implies looking at something for a reason, with an intention. It’s the action of directing one’s gaze in a specified direction, or to regard something in a specified way. (e.g. “Look at this beautiful photo album.”).
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a few different encounters I’ve had with people, and things I found beauty in: and it has nothing to do with the situation itself, but everything to do with our perspective – and whether we merely ‘see’ what’s in front of us, or ‘look’ with intent.
The man from Bangladesh selling beautiful blankets/bed throws on the beach in southern Italy that my sisters and I briefly chatted with, Isabella, the bakery owner who I finally officially met and had a conversation with after almost a year of living here in Milan (who turned out to be a lovely person, born the exact year as my mom), and the friendly cashier at our local market who openly shared with me about a sad period he was going through, for example. All wonderful people who I’m happy to have met, and yet I think about how these types of opportunities, like so many others, can so easily go unnoticed if we don’t take a minute to venture beyond our normal routine…
It would have been so easy to say “no thank you” to the man selling things from Bangladesh and stop there, or to never have started a conversation with Isabella, or to never have gone beyond a surface level “Ciao, come va?” conversation in the market.
Things constantly flash before our eyes that are forgotten moments later, but what about when we actually look with the intention to see? When we look, we see the opportunity to smile at someone, wave hello, be an encourager, give a hug or be a friend. And even though we are only one person, we have the ability to brighten someone’s day, which in turn, brightens our own 🙂
As I’ve tried to ‘look’ more, I’ve found beauty in the thunderstorms we’re having, taking advantage of being warm and cozy inside, sipping on my cappuccino (even if my clothes won’t dry properly or there’s slight flooding outside), I’ve made venturing out in the rain an adventure. I felt excited about the crisp fall air as I stepped out on our little balcony this morning, and I’ve found that I’m so appreciative of the occasional quiet moments. There’s so much to love when we really look for it. ❤
Note: Definitions from the Merriam Webster dictionary, the list of definitions is non-exhaustive.
Photographer: Johanna Gallo
Quote: unknown author
I really enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for explaing the difference between looking and seeing. I never really thought about it like that. Today when I go out, I will try to see the two differences.
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I’m really glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 I thought it touched on some of the same things that I found in yours earlier today. It’s amazing how little things (even smiles) can make a big difference for someone.