Analysis of Poem "To Look At Any Thing" by John Moffitt

Updated on September 15, 2017
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Small Silences Between The Leaves

To Look At Any Thing
To Look At Any Thing | Source

John Moffitt and To Look At Any Thing

To Look At Any Thing is a poem that is based on the idea that the living world holds a mystery which can be appreciated only if we spend time learning the art of inner attentiveness.

Knowledge of any thing comes from long observation, a way of seeing that is stripped of conditioning and convention. What we're used to seeing isn't always based on truth.

John Moffitt lived a life in search of truth, becoming a Hindu before converting to Christianity, using a meditative, philosophical approach to religion. He was a prolific article writer, contributing to various scholarly publications, and published books of poetry as he travelled and learnt.

This poem appeared in a 1962 book, The Living Seed.

As a poet he focused on Nature, religion and the environment, combining craft and religious knowledge to produce work of quiet mindfulness.

To Look At Any Thing deals with form and deep reality and suggests that there is a revelatory aspect to observing things. When we look at a leaf for example it is necessary to relieve the mind and memory of past and possible future, concentrating solely on the present.

The poet distills his experience and creates this short, careful piece of free verse, quietly urging those who want to know to leave behind cliche and familiarity and enter into a relationship with the thing being observed.

It is a poem that encourages the reader to connect with the natural world by initially creating peace within themselves before experiencing the mystery of existence. The small silences between each leaf help the seer to attune to the connectivity of all - tree, rock, stream, snake and so on - everything is part of the miraculous fabric.

To Look At Any Thing

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
“I have seen spring in these
Woods,” will not do – you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.

Analysis of To Look At Any Thing

To Look At Any Thing is a 15 line free verse poem, that is, it doesn't have a regular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.

The theme of the poem is the attainment of knowledge through looking, a meditative act that is essentially about transcending normal perception. We all look at things but how deeply do we enter into the relationship between observer and subject?

This poem encourages the reader (as observer) to become the thing they are looking at. It is a poem that is a kind of guide to deep seeing - necessitating a one step further into the reality that faces us, to become that reality, be it leaf or tree or rock and so on.

Understandably, the poet was a seeker of truth and practiced meditation having practiced both Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as being a Christian. Controversially, he felt these three major religions, complimented each other. He said:

' I am a Christian...but I can no longer say I am not a Hindu or a Buddhist...'

What is clear from reading this short poem is the use of repetition to reinforce the general message contained within. The verb to look for example, occurs three times, and the affirmative you must five times.

In contemporary terms, the poem is strongly related to mindfulness, specifically Buddhist mindfulness, and the school of Zen, where intuition and mental discipline over-ride ritual and linguistics.

Hence the reference to the small silences, the mysterious non-energy of life, inherent in the irreducible peace existent in things. The poet is urging the reader to completely take on the role of whatever it is they are observing, and this can only be achieved through 'long' and loving of deep reality.

© 2017 Andrew Spacey


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)