Fyodor Dostoyevsk writes about the fact that much of the world has become numb. He says that there is a place underground where he retreats from the uncaring, unfeeling mob and that it is from that underground retreat that he writes. He adds that books are the winged messengers that fly above ground and that they are an essential witness to the people above:

“Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men — men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalised man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea. But enough; I don’t want to write more from “Underground.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, White Nights, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, and Selections from The House of the Dead

I believe that the anecdote to numbness is the ability to see, and I don’t mean the ability to look. Looking and seeing are two separate things. Even flies can look. Looking is nothing more than image recognition. Seeing is a deeper thing. It has to do with perceiving and with understanding and with the imagination and with empathy and feeling.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein


True artists and writers must never become numb to life. They must learn to look for the fire that is always burning and that is always recharging their emotional banks that  would otherwise desist into ashes. After finding those buried flames, the artist must learn to see the marrow of life that is there, beneath the surface, and he must learn to distil it in order to share it with those who do not see.

“Je vois les autres.”–Pablo Picasso [I see for others]

I have never tested the hypothesis, but I speculate that people who write from within their souls have expressive eyes. They would be the people who have learned to strip away the outer bark of their existences and to tap what lies deeper within. I believe that what people discover from deep within will be reflected in their eyes. You can often look into the eyes of someone who does not feel–and you will note that empty wells are where the eyes should be. On the other hand, when there is feeling within another creature, it floods from its eyes.

I have taught art most of my life, and every time that I teach anything about faces, I repeat the quote, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”


Ipad Drawing to Look Like Red Chalk – Jacki Kellum

I tell my students to draw the eyes as quickly as possible. If the student cannot make the eyes talk, the painting or the drawing will never work.

“If there is a true measure of a person’s soul, if there is a single gauge of real divinity, of how beautifully a fellow human honors this life, has genuine spiritual fire and is full of honest love and compassion, it has to be right there, in the eyes.

“The Dalai Lama’s eyes sparkle and dance with laughter and unbridled love. The Pope’s eyes are dark and glazed, bleak as obsidian marbles. Pat Robertson’s eyes are rheumy and hollow, like tiny potholes of old wax. Goldman Sachs cretins, well, they don’t use their own eyes at all; they just steal someone else’s.” – Mark Morford

“Eyes as black and as shiny as chips of obsidian stared back into his. They were eyes like black holes, letting nothing out, not even information.” – Neil Gaiman

the entire creative process begins with the ability to see. It begins with the eyes. The eyes have it.

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Brontë

©Jacki Kellum October 19, 2016