In Jay Nordlinger's most recent Impromptus comes the following item:
When I was in college — studying anthropology — Ruth Benedict was a big joke. Yes, she was. She had written her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword — a study of Japan — at the request of the government (for we had been attacked by the Japanese and were fighting them). She had done so without benefit of visiting Japan, using only the resources of libraries in New York. In my circles, the book was thought to be a hoot: slipshod, ill informed, tainted because it was requested by the government, imperialist, etc. (You remember what it was like to be in college.)
I took the opportunity to ask a distinguished Japanese intellectual here about the book. He replied that it was a great one, still holding up, still widely read and studied in Japan, a masterpiece of national and cultural analysis.
Great insight can be achieved by perceptive people even without first hand evidence. Even without any new information, nothing that any normal person could see. They look, they see what everybody else sees, but what they perceive is extraordinary.
This phenomenon afflicts every field of endeavor. The first place I noticed it was in the hard sciences, specifically optics. Uncounted millions had seen dew gathered on plants, had seen how the curved water drop made the structure underneath appear larger. In essence, they all saw all they needed to see to discover the lens, the microscope, the invisible world that would have revolutionized their understanding of the world. And they perceived nothing.
There is no reason not to suspect that the same thing is going on countless times every day into our own era. And there has never been an era more prepared to receive a new and revolutionary insight.
Open your eyes
Open your mind
Don't just see, perceive