February 13, 2013

"It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."

That's today's sentence from "The Great Gatsby." What do you think? Talk about it, would you? I'll help you out, by cheating on the usual rules (which require us to look at one sentence in isolation). Here's the sentence just before that one:
Or perhaps I had merely grown used to it, grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again, through Daisy’s eyes.
Perspectives! Keep shifting them!

What have you looked at in a new way today — forced, somehow, after having already expended your powers of adjustment? The Wisconsin Supreme Court? The holes in the macaroni noodles? The Belgians? Women's magazines? The slug's penis? Black food? A glass of frackingwater? Charred human remains? An 89-year-old Senator? A humanizing glass of water? The toilet?


Lem said...

The eyes of a community organiser leave me cold.

That may be a cheap laugh to you, but through my old eyes is altogether different.

m stone said...

Gadsby fatigue setting in? Goes to show that writers should be measured by their canvas and not their brush strokes.

Leslie Graves said...

Why would it be "invariably saddening" to look through new eyes at something? Just getting a different perspective on something doesn't make us sad, right?

That had me think more about expending one's powers of adjustment. Does that mean, "Make an effort to fix your attitude and perspective toward something in a way that at some level you know isn't quite right, but is convenient or comforting"?

Then, when new circumstances cause you to see it in a new light, you're going to be sad because...why? Because this causes you to recognize at some level that your previous perspective was limited by your own...shying away from the truth? Lack of effort?

Lem said...


I dint realise what the word meant right away... and I think its because I read it as expended but when I hear the word, I often hear spended.

If perception is reality... a quote I believe attributed to Lee Atwater... and the perception is that debt, spending is not a problem... then how can a "new perspective" be relevant to anything other than a change of scenery?

I guess I'm just not in a touchy feely mood these days.

chickelit said...

What have you looked at in a new way today — forced, somehow, after having already expended your powers of adjustment?....
...The toilet?

Up your fiber!

wyo sis said...

I thought the same thing Leslie.
I saw many parents through new eyes as I always do during book fair week. There is a lot of quiet heroism out there. Parents struggling with loneliness, grief, medical hardship, husband gone working in the oil fields for 16 days in a row while mom raises the 4 kids oldest 6th grade youngest 3 months. I remember working that hard and being tired all the time, but it seems so overwhelming watching young parents now. I wonder how I did it. At least my husband was home every night.

Meade said...

"Then, when new circumstances cause you to see it in a new light, you're going to be sad because...why? Because this causes you to recognize at some level that your previous perspective was limited by your own...shying away from the truth? Lack of effort?"

Exactly. This is an example of why, back in sophomore English class, my buddies and I started disparagingly referring to him as "Nick Caraway Seed".

Dante said...


The words seem to me to imply he is adjusting "things." Like, facebook adjusts their web page, changes the rules, and millions get ticked off, even if it is better. It's different.

As far as expended, does that mean the power of adjusting this thing has been consumed? Or that the power was simply used and not exhausted.

I suppose that's the way I'll look at it. One expends energy to change something, and people tend to not like things that have changed.

The idea that people do not like it when you change, say your attitude, doesn't make much sense to me. People, especially groups, love it when you change your perception to align with the group. Does anyone doubt if one were to change from being an Atheist to a Catholic the Catholic's would not be thrilled? Like say Richard Dawkins changed his view on religion. I think he would be welcomed and heralded.

So I can't accept the personal adjustment angle, or at least it doesn't match with my view of the world.

Lem said...

The closest reference to this I'm recalling the time my former employer brought an instructor to update us on Civil 3D, an Autodesk CAD program... up to then most of what I knew had been self taught.

I remember he showed us some tips and tricks that reduced a set of very common (used often) commands to a few key strokes and in one instance to a click of the mouse... whereas the way I did it took several key strokes.

I remember asking him to repeat what he had just done... that seemed so fast to me... and after showing me the second time I mouthed under my breath "I could kill myself"... the reaction seemed almost involuntary... I don't make it habit of saying things like that... I was a little embarrassed afterwards.

Phil Beck said...

Is it just me, or have there been an awful lot of penis references in the last week or so?

edutcher said...

At the risk of picking nits, I'd say the eyes aren't so much new as different.

Again, the context does help sometimes.

Lem said...

It is sad to think that future generations may not realise the benefits of the second amendment, for example... Because we may fail to reframe it, resell it, repackage it... sliding back into the false premise that its prominent place in the constitution its guaranteed... slam dunk?... no such thing.

Chip S. said...

I recommend reading these Great Gatsby sentences while listening to this.

(via The Great Lileks)

Chip Ahoy said...

The thing that I related to while reading that sentence was reviewing old checks by the hundreds, thinking at the time they were so important to back up any tax claim or whatever and seeing what I was spending money on years ago. It was depressing. Really depressing. To relive a decade through written checks. The things that I thought were so important then were depressing to me now, but that was in the past too, and that feeling sad is reviewed anew and the feeling replaced with sadness about having felt sad.

Lem said...

Thanks Chip S... just got that via the portal.

Chip S. said...

Lem, glad you liked it.

I'm trying to hear through new ears the music that made the Jazz Age.

What a time that must've been. The end of the jazzless eternity that preceded. America suddenly at the forefront of music in the world, being led by a people it had only recently emancipated.

All that, plus Babe Ruth and movies w/ sound.

gerry said...

The holes in the macaroni noodles?

They are sad after it is cooked.

Now I feel sad.

creeley23 said...

Yep. This is just another ill-considered thought Fitzgerald promoted to a Universal Truth.

It's tempting to lay it off on Nick the Narrator, but Fitzgerald does the same when writing as himself.

Althouse has quite an eye for bad Fitzgerald sentences.

Heather Mitchell said...

I think it means you are blinded to reality until you take yourself out of the equation and look at a situation from the outside looking in. Sometimes you may not like what you see. Love in many ways plays a big factor in seeing things the way you want to see them and not how they are.