This past Saturday, I woke up early and went hiking. The day started gloomy like the photo above, then misty, then drizzly, and the weather got worse and worse as the morning went on.
Toward mid-day, the rain was coming down pretty steady. I came around a bend on the trail, walking up to a lookout point. A man and woman were standing there with their ponchos on, looking out at the wall of rain and fog and the dark fuzzy outlines of the ridge beyond.
I started a little small talk. “Not much of a view today!”
The guy smiled and laughed and gently corrected me: “Well… it’s different.”
This cool dialogue about noticing made me think of three connections.
The first one came before I read it. The idea of noticing reminded me of a passage in Anne Fadiman’s book, Ex Libris, that I quoted in my review and will quote again because it’s funny:
The proofreading temperament is part of a larger syndrome with several interrelated symptoms, one of which is the spotting mania. When my friend Brian Miller, also a copy editor, was a boy, he used to sit in the woods for long stretches, watching for subtle animal movements in the distance. The young John Bethell was a whiz at figuring out What’s Wrong with This Picture? Proofreaders tend to be good at distinguishing the anomalous figure–the rare butterfly, the precious seashell–from the ordinary ground, but unlike collectors, we wish to discard rather than hoard. Although not all of us are tidy, we savor certain cleaning tasks: removing the lint from the clothes dryer, skimming the drowned bee from the pool. My father’s most treasured possession is an enormous brass wastebasket. He is happiest when his desktop is empty and the basket is full. One of my brother’s first sentences, a psychologically brilliant piece of advice offered from his high chair one morning when my father came downstairs in a grouchy mood, was “Throw everything out, Daddy!”
The second thing it made me think of was Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. In the book, the first way to make people like you is to “become genuinely interested in other people.” Authentically give a shit. It’s so simple. That’s seconded here in the noticing interview:
Portigal: Super-noticing power really is a strong cultural idea. The enhanced human with awesome noticing and synthesizing powers crops up regularly in science fiction…
Soltzberg: Right, sort of like a super-charged version of William Gibson’s Cayce Pollard character in Pattern Recognition. Noticing definitely draws on a set of skills that these kinds of characters embody and amplify, but at the heart of it you have to genuinely be interested in the world around you and in other people.
The last thing is the idea of curating, just being open and attentive to influence and where it leads you. Curiosity and curating share a common root, which is… CARING.