Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Benevolent Glancing

More on Sr. Mary Evelyn Jeger SND, who died this week. This is from an interview that Jim Forest did with her sometime in the mid 1980s:

"As I do not drive, I spend much of my life in buses. What better place, I thought, to experiment with benevolent glancing? At first I felt a bit awkward. I did not try to engage anyone’s eyes, so benevolent glancing was strictly a unilateral initiative. 
"A strange thing happened. I found I was praying. I don’t mean saying prayers. I was being attentive, alert and aware in a way impossible to describe. I was very much “with” a mysterious depth of reality. I was looking at others not merely with curiosity but with love. After all, love is what benevolence is all about: the word means “to wish another well.” 
"After a year of practice, I happened to meet a Buddhist priest. In his family he was of the fortieth consecutive generation of Buddhist priests. He said that the Buddhist way of seeing is different than the western approach. Westerners want to extract data, to “take” what they can from what they see, while a Buddhist tries simply to be present, to allow reality to present itself, to wait for it to come forward to meet the eye.
"What has this got to do with peace? Very much. Benevolent glancing is an art of attentiveness. Paying attention to what is before us is a way of prayer, even a definition of prayer. We know by faith that God is everywhere. Benevolent glancing is relishing God by being attentive to what is before us."  - Sr. Mary Evelyn Jeger SND

Read the full interview on Jim's website HERE.

An obituary for Sr. Mary Evelyn is HERE.

Sister Mary Evelyn Jeger SND b. February 15, 1928, d. July 4, 2014

HT: Jim Forest


  1. These two posts about Sr Mary Evelyn are good instruction about mindfulness. I like her take on "take", the extraction of data. "Take" is nearly always hooked up with photograph, so one "takes" a photograph (or "shoots" as if photographers were gunslingers or hunters). There is a way of photography that is mindful, contemplative. Sr's words lead me to consider that photography can be benevolent, too, as she says, a relishing and to wish something or someone well.

    1. there was a time when I wanted to post a series of photographs that I considered "contemplative" ... certainly most of Merton's, and those of Gene Meatyard and yours. Love you "take" on Mary Evelyn's words as they relate to photography. Did you see the recent documentary of VivianMeier? Just wondering what you made of her photographs.

    2. Beth, I've seen the documentary. Good story of her work; I like her photographs. I haven't looked at the books--there are a few I think--where I'd get a better sense of what she had done. I don't know if she wrote about her photography, the why; perhaps it came out in letters. She was before the time of obfuscating artist statements. She seemed to be intent on looking at others similarly to many street photographers; perhaps, like Winogrand, she wanted to see what things and people looked like photographed. Maybe she had other intentions. Her collecting of things in her apartment appears to have been compulsive saving; might that have been the case with her photography?

    3. Thanks for your comments, James. I saw the documentary too -- a strange woman with an unusual way of "seeing". A gift for composition and "capture". I'm especially drawn to the depths of mood that her photographs convey. As if I'm seeing something of her own soul reflected in her photography. She reminds me of the man (I can't remember his name, but there was a film made about him) who had a whole apartment full of painting that was discovered after he died. He also was compelled to put something together (work something out?) in his own way.