Obvious Descriptions  

In the last week of January, I came across a passage from the French novelist and essayist Georges Perec. 

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out. Force yourself to see more flatly.

Book: Species of Space, p50

This passage made me think about all those obvious descriptions our society trains us to make about things. We always think we know more than we do, grasp more than we do until we are asked to describe it. 

The other day, I was talking to a friend about another concept by Perec that I thought I understood fully at the moment. I shared a passage with him. He took a few minutes processing it and then asked me to describe it to him. I tried providing him with a really interesting description but I wasn’t satisfied. I asked myself, “Was that all? Or there’s more to it? Why does it feel such an obvious description although it apparently took all my interpretive and critical faculties? Well, It was true that I hadn’t dived into it properly. There WAS definitely more to it. I had just read the concept and wanted to share. I didn’t try to understand it. 

Perec says that we tend to see things in a repetitive manner, focusing only on what we’re accustomed to noticing or what we expect to see. We overlook the potential for new perspectives or deeper observations because we’re stuck in this cycle of familiarity.

Similarly, criticism is very subjective nowadays or I’d say everyone’s a critic. I have listened to so many people calling themselves skeptics as (according to them) they doubt all the accepted opinions. But I have also seen the same people forgetting that the first step of criticism is always paying attention. Whether you can describe your understanding well? And understanding something well always requires a hell lot of ‘flat/unbiased’ attention. 

So, I went to Google to learn how I can understand things better and I came across this really good advice from a novelist Lauren Oyler. She says, “Think about something that you’ve read or watched recently, and try to describe it objectively to someone who’s never heard of it.”

So, I tried doing it here by describing my understanding of Perec’s passage as surrealistically as I could. And I realized all over again that it’s hard to describe what something/someone is about. So, I’d love to hear your description of it :”)

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