Long looking, like slow cooking, should
become the vogue, replacing speedy glances
with which we tend to focus on the wood
instead of trees, though every one enhances
our lives as much as forests where they stand.
Slowly cooking, bringing out all flavors,
looking slowly helps us understand
a world that no fast looker truly savors,
gulping sights at which he only gazes,
never relishing the banquets placed
before his eyes: no new sight thus amazes
fast lookers choosing to trade taste for haste.
Time passes quickly: only looking slowly
enables us to see within it what is holy.
Inspired by an article in Huffington Post on August 3, 2009 by Dylan Loewe ("Taking the Long View") and by an article in the NYT on the same day by Michael Kimmelman ("At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus").
But, I promise you, fellow anxiety-driven friends, now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to start taking the long view. The 24-hour news cycle, the minute-by-minute blogosphere, all of it gives the impression that any single day, any single minute, is critically important. You see a bad story one day and assume the game's over. Viewers watching MSNBC last week heard Contessa Brewer and Dylan Ratigan talking about whether or not the Republican party was poised to make a huge comeback in the 2010 midterms. The discussion centered around new polling that showed Congress at a staggeringly low 24 percent approval rating -- the lowest recording of the year.
So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime's art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have "done" the Louvre. It's self-improvement on the fly. The art historian T. J. Clark, who during the 1970s and '80s pioneered a kind of analysis that rejected old-school connoisseurship in favor of art in the context of social and political affairs, has lately written a book about devoting several months of his time to looking intently at two paintings by Poussin. Slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic.