Whatever you see has the potential to wound you…

to make you less than you are, as if by merely seeing a thing some part of yourself will be taken away from you. Often, you will feel it will be dangerous to look, and there is a tendency to avert your eyes, or even to shut them. Because of that, it is easy to get confused, to be unsure that you are really seeing that thing you think you are looking at.

You see how complicated it is. It is not enough simply to look and say to yourself, “I am looking at that thing.” For it is one thing to do this when the object before your eyes is a pencil, say, or a crust of bread. But what happens when you find yourself looking at a dead child, at a little girl lying in the street without any clothes on, her head crushed and covered in blood? What do you say to yourself then? It is not a simple matter, you see, to state flatly and without equivocation: “I am looking at a dead child.” Your mind seems to balk at forming the words, you simply cannot bring yourself to do it.

For the thing before your eyes is not something you can very easily separate from yourself. That is what I mean by being wounded: you cannot merely see, for each thing somehow belongs to you, is part of the story unfolding inside you.

– Paul Auster, In the Country of Last Things