There's a reason we zone out from time to time, and there's a reason that one-point meditation (focusing on a candle flame, a mandala, etc.) is so soothing and so revealing. Our eyes need time to adjust, not to what's before us, but to what's behind what's before us. Passive study, at least in my experience, is how the universe reveals itself to us, whether we're struck motionless by the impact of a landscape, the intricacy of a detail of shell or leaf, or the mundane familiarity of the objects we encounter daily. (I can't tell you how many times these daily blog posts reveal themselves to me while I stare at my pot of pencils...).
What we see matters very little--how we see makes all the difference.