Seeing Is Believing

Hanging out in the long shadow cast by Mary Shelley and her creations — Dr. Frankenstein and his famous monster — it’s hard to resist the lure of her husband the poet Percy Shelley.

I love all waste
And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be…

I doubt that neither the poet nor the novelist could have imagined the impact that Mary’s story would have on future generations. Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster is an iconic figure and the idea of putting disparate things together to create a monstrous whole is always described as Frankenstein-esque or Frankenstein-like. So many years after the initial publication, Frankenstein is part of our culture. And Percy Shelley’s words ring true, too, and can be read in ways that make perfect sense in the first part of the 21st century.

“I love all waste and solitary places where we taste the pleasure of believing what we see…”

What a wonderful statement. You could live by it or simply visit the suggestion to experience the pleasure of those ‘wasted’ spaces, where you can enjoy believing what you see. To me that brings to mind a solo walk in the woods. I’d allow myself to imagine what the wind is saying and who, or what, is lurking in the shadowy shapes I half see/half imagine.

But here I am in New York City. Even in the emptiest, most ‘wasted’ spaces, you are never very far from other people. Urban life means you have to create the emptiness that can be filled with the pleasure of believing what you see — in spite of any rational thoughts to the contrary.

We don’t live in a time where ‘seeing is believing’ is a sensible guide. Reality is easily manipulated, to the point were no record of fact can be accepted without scrutiny and yet we still want to believe what we see. When we see something odd of off kilter, I think we should enjoy the ride.

I went Tango dancing on the Christopher Street Pier yesterday. It was way too windy and cold, but the sunshine and the river were beautiful. The wind kicked up the waves and it was easy to ‘see’ movements on the surface of the water. When a big Dutch cruise ship sailed by, I looked out beyond the ship and let myself imagine seeing a large head rising above the surface. Could the Hudson be home to a Loch Ness-like monster? With all the traffic in the harbor, it would have to be one clever and agile sea creature, but…

There is pleasure in believing that what we see is boundless.


  1. We pride ourselves on being rational creatures but I think we all live in worlds of our own. Some of us believe that nothing bad will ever happen to us. Others are the opposite and see danger in every shadow. And most of us are in between somewhere, especially writers who deliberately walk the shadowline. Lovely post Candy.

    • Candy

      I think I’ve been scaring myself since I was out of diapers — and maybe before. But now I often enjoy it. Nothing like dwelling in your nightmares until you can make light of them. It doesn’t work for all my nightmarish thoughts, but it works on some and I like that!