Friday, July 2


It is to my grandfather's "stereopticon" that I probably owe my Weltanschauung, my way of perceiving the world. The antique contrivance consisted of twin lenses set in a leather-covered housing lined with red velvet. From this housing a kind of wooden slide rule jutted forward, with a device at its end in which you placed twin photographs. Then, pressing the velvet edge to your face, you saw through the lenses an oak tree, not flat, as in a picture, but all in the round; a living presence. For hours I could sit and watch the miraculous three-dimensionality of cows in a meadow, of lovers dallying under lilac bushes full of white doves, of Princess Julianne of the Netherlands riding her piebald pony.

And so it came about that sometimes, when I got tired, and fields and hedges began to look listlessly flat, two-dimensional, I found I could command my eyes: "Now, look as if thorough the stereopticon!" And suddenly every blade of grass sprang to life again and stood there in a space all its own; clumps of trees broke up into individual living beings, each one rising from its own roots deep in the earth. People, when observed through my virtual stereopticon, underwent an extraordinary metamorphosis: they too became impressively unique, mysterious beings. What looked at as just a waiter, a sumac, or a cow became a poignant living presence when seen stereoptically.

I found this discovery of seeing; a precious secret that I never mentioned it to anyone, but practice it I did, as often as I could -- [I began to understand] that everyone's everyday eye can become an awakened eye, an eye that can do infinitely more than merely look at things, recognize, classify and label them. This awakened eye could see the Ten Thousand Things as they are, in themselves, each in its own truth. When all appears as déjà vu or dull, one has only to command one's eye to see stereoptically to awaken it from its habitual slumber to fully conscious perception.

There are drawbacks to this awakened eye: you can't cut down that sumac that is in the way and that is "only a sumac"; the waiter is waiter no longer once you see the tremor in that hand; the cow is no more "cattle," when you have drawn those eyes. Stereoptic seeing may make you relatively harmless; it also makes you vulnerable.

There is for me no legitimate reason for drawing, painting, sculpting, other than in this intensified awareness of the eye awakened from half-sleep.

-- Frederick Franck