Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Ever since I've practiced not seeing, I've seen many wonderful things. . . . How much have you been seeing? Are your eyes satisfied?"

     "If a director is to restrain himself on film, though, he must restrain himself in life—that is, he must 'practice' restraint. He must fast. A man who refuses meat on Friday (and a man who refuses his smartphone on Sunday) is better suited to be a director (all things being equal) than a man who doesn't. Because the man who fasts is the man who can best grasp the measure of a thing, because he recognizes its power over him and knows its limitation in bringing him happiness. From that vantage point, he can see; thus, he knows what kind of a shot a thing deserves, if any at all. Such a man is free to look long, and he is free to look away, because such a man is free."

     Michael Toscano, "The call of the nightingale," Books and culture 22, no. 2 (March/April 2016):  17 (15-17).  The entire essay (which is devoted to the films of Majid Majidi) is simply transcendent.
     According to Toscano, the words at the top are those of Morteza, a character in The willow tree who went blind late in life, to Yousef, the blind man who, having regained his sight, "is undone by the lust of the eyes" (16).
     In The color of paradise (according to Toscano, Rang-e Khoda, The color of God), the blind boy Mohammed says this:
Our teacher says that God loves the blind more because they can't see, but I told him if it was so, He would not make us blind, so that we can't see Him.  He answered, 'God is not visible.  He is everywhere.  You can feel Him.  You see Him through your fingertips.'  Now I reach out everywhere for God till the day my hands touch Him, and tell Him everything, even all the secrets in my heart.
     Later, after quoting Confessions, Toscano continues,
I can think of no passage that better encapsulates the incredible power of the virtuous eye, which can perceive the beauty of the created world and therein—in the textured braille of nature—the writing of God's hand and nature's joyful reply. This is the dignity of the eye (when rightly ordered), the dignity of the camera (when used to see in love), and the dignity of Mohammad, searching the fibers and composition of sound and touch for the One who composed them. You are both seen and unseen; only thee I want; only thy name I call. 'Now I reach everywhere for God till the day my hands touch him' [(17, underscoring mine)].

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