Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

What You See Is What You Get

--by Annie Dillard (Jan 29, 2014)

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
…For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket; I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again. I walked closer and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or, it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red- winged blackbirds; they flew from the tree, caught my eye in the sky, and vanished. […] These appearances catch at my throat; they are the free gifts, the bright coppers at the roots of trees.
It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open.

-- Annie Dillard, from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

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Previous Reflections:

On Jan 24, 2014 .Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 My first impression is that it's if you are loved do when you are young, you can more easily love (be kind to others) as you grow older. My parents and family and environment where great as I was growing up and I believe this helps me to notice how great little things in life are. Noticing that I am one with everyone and everything helps me to treat others the way I would like to be treated. Meditation has been helpful for me to be more aware of my present experience. After practicing for many years, I still find that I am imperfect and somewhat selfish. when I accept that I have a tendency to be less selfish. I was a baby in the family for eight years and I notice, at times, I'm still somewhat babyish today. If I can accept that, I notice I can be somewhat less selfish – – less babyish. Present awareness is the key. Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Warm and kind regards to everyone

On Jan 24, 2014 Amy wrote: is one such penny.  I appreciate the weekly "soul food".  This site requires that "I see" beyond what my eyes can see.  I am touched in the form of word.  Thank you!

On Jan 26, 2014 david doane wrote:

What I see is my perception, and what I get is my perception.  Two people look at the same thing, each has a different perception, and each gets something different.  So it's important that my perception be as clear and neutral as I can get it, unclouded by obstacles like negativity, prejudice, preconceived notions, expectations.  Becoming aware of the obstacles and letting go of them is the process of clearing my perception.  In keeping my perception clean plus staying in the present I practice keeping my eyes open and seeing the pennies the world has to offer.  If I'm not in the present, if I'm caught up in something from the past or planning the future I'm not likely to see the pennies in front of me.  Keeping my eyes open in relation to nature reveals the many pennies that nature is full of, and comes easier for me than keeping my eyes open in relation to people about whom I've already made up my mind.  When I have given a chance to someone about whom I have premade strong opinions and have kept my eyes open and listened openly, I have found pennies that the person has to offer, and that has been satisfying and healing.

On Jan 28, 2014 Jo wrote:

 Thank you, for the penny.  Very much appreciate.

On Jan 29, 2014 me wrote:

 "Cultivating healthy poverty and simplicity" is key (and most stands out, in this).  A few of my favorite things:  the sun, wind, fire, new life, birds singing, swinging, art, music, praying, reading, listening, Heaven and earth. . .
Interesting, how most of my favorite things don't come with a price tag.  They were "pennies" gifted by Some ONE Who loves me.    

On Jan 29, 2014 Ammi wrote:

 I was going for a stressful meeting to seek justice knowing that none may be available, when two pennies lifted my spirits, and made me stand taller in still asking for it. A convenient parking spot in an otherwise difficult to park area where the meeting was. And, a lovely bloom laden tree right outside the building,reminding me that there is no justice even in the tree giving its beauty and bounty to all for no return in exchange. I felt well supported as I went in to seek justice because that was all I had to find courage to do. Not getting justice did not matter much. My duty ended with speaking my truth and standing up for what I believed in. Both the pennies facilitated my process in that. 

On Jan 29, 2014 Always wrote:

 I have a friend who is a "professional penny hider".  He actually has a gift for hiding pennies.  Much like Jesus told parables to keep his listeners well tuned, this friend does the same.  I have to listen very attentively to find the "hidden penny".  Sometimes, in no words at all (just by this friends presence) his spirit  was the gift (penny).
God works in mysterious ways.  I am so thankful for the riches gained (one penny at a time) in God gifting  me with this special "brother of mine". Pennies in nature . . . Pennies, too, in people.  
I once was just waiting to go to Heaven.  With this friend, my focus is on finding the next "arrow" to the hidden penny!  What an adventure!

On Jan 30, 2014 Raghu wrote:

 It is true and my experience says if you have positive thoughts you only get good things... seeing and getting is based on your thoughts. As long as your thoughts are pure, you bound to see good and you only get good.

On Jan 30, 2014 me wrote:

 Amen and thank you.  

On Feb 3, 2014 Prof Mohandas wrote:

 Yes, it is really true. not in computer graphics alone : What You See Is What You Get : WYSIWYG 

On Feb 4, 2014 Erica wrote:

 Yes, during meditation times.

On Apr 26, 2016 sdfsdfsd wrote:

 thank you

On Sep 26, 2016 bs like this story wrote:

 Wack AF