For folks who are fortunate enough to possess the trait of contemplative sensitivity, the simple act of “watching” might deservedly be analogized to the reading of good literature. Both require the small sacrifice of the cessation of one’s previous activity and a redirected and concentrated focus on a different and discrete physical image, done in the serious pursuit of information, or simply, diversion.
Our theme word, “watching” encompasses far more complexity and dynamics than its (vitally important) ingredient, seeing. “Seeing” is a physical, purposeless, neurological phenomenon, occurring when rays of light, imported by the eye and then, by means of synaptic transmission, are directed to the brain which identifies the object for the observer. In fact, the sole similarity between seeing and “watching” is that they, respectively, are done by only one person.
The related word “surveillance,” similar to the word “watching,” has a pre-determined purpose; but unlike “watching” it is generally performed by, or on behalf of, more than one person. Some examples of its application are in crime prevention and detection, military reconnaissance and empirical scientific research; moreover, it is usually conducted with the aid of mechanical equipment. Both watching and surveillance should be audited regularly for legal and proper motivation and execution, to assure that rights of privacy and constitutional propriety are protected.
While some may view the act of watching as a passive and limited activity, only involving the solo expenditure of ocular energy, in point of fact, it is in reality and effect, a most dynamic activity and constitutes the most effective and accessible route to enlightenment and personal development; an apprentice watches his master craftsman, the surgical resident watches the attending surgeon, the student watches the teacher and the child watches his parent (the reverse is also true).
Societal behavior is watched and emulated, beginning at the pre-toddler stage of early childhood and is continued through the attainment of elder status. We are shaped, amended and develop through observation (“watching”). It is by social interaction with fellow members of our society that we are made to develop our comparative identity and self-image. Observed (watched) social behavior, interaction between the various relationships in society and transmitted “norms” are digested and metabolized. At various times, individuals appear who possess sufficient, advanced insight and perspective to have developed the competent objectivity to determine the need for change and envision improvement. After sufficiently observing (watching) the operation of society, they may recommend change for its further betterment, in terms of efficiency, justice or general fairness. As has analogously been the history with innovative, but great literature, that such new proposals initially may be rejected but are later greatly treasured.
In the absence of our innate inclination for substantive watching, society would be stagnant and would perpetuate practices inhibiting its betterment, as well as that of its members. Watching for the purposes of learning and comprehension, may be equally productive of wisdom as is the reading of fine literature in its aesthetic recitation of the eternal human condition. –p