Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Can You See Me Now?

What? You didn’t realize you are hallucinating? The magazine “Scientific American” printed an issue several years ago that described the design flaw in the human eye. There is a blind spot in your field of vision just to the lower left in your left eye, lower right for the right eye, and the magazine had a few charts to help the average person find their blind spot, and be totally blown away it was there at all.
One of the charts was composed to two yellow bars, one of which had a gap in it. When you held the chart up and found the blind spot, your mind would fill in the blanks and the two yellow bars would both be solid. No gaps. As I read the article, I had this feeling it might be like those 3-d posters that came out in the late 90’s where there was a shark or some fish hidden in the background. Once to see it then it’s easy to see but until you do see it, you cannot image it’s there at all. But the blind spot always filled in the yellow bar, even when you knew it was filling in the yellow bar. Even when I told my mind to stop doing it, my mind kept doing it, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it.
You’re doing it too.

Basically, you’re hallucinating at one point in your field of vision from the time your mind kicks in and start defining your reality as a function of sight, until a car comes out of that blind spot one day and your mind has as much problem dealing with metal traveling at sixty miles an hour as your average armadillo. Or even an above average armadillo.

Because you are still alive, and so are most of the people around you, to the point of distraction, you can assume the information I’ve given you isn’t likely to cause you to start, or stop, seeing those things you aren’t seeing, or are seeing. You can trick you mind into filling in the blanks, but the real magic is trying to train it not to fill in the blanks, and I’m fairly certain there is some compelling reason for the mind to have developed this skill so messing with it might not only be not nearly amusing as you might think, but it might be downright annoying.

Okay, some anecdotal stuff, guaranteed to draw you into kinship with my experience, because if you and I share an experience, and we both agree the results mean what we agree they mean, then we will both feel smarter, even though neither wisdom nor knowledge are subject to the invented rules of majority rules. So anyway, I was dating a young woman, and yes, her being both young and female are relevant to this conversation, but I didn’t mention she was quite pretty, but if I had mentioned she was pretty, that would have drawn you into the story more closely, which is why Hollywood rarely uses natural looking people in movies, but I digress. So she and I, the woman I was dating and myself, were walking down the streets of Athens Georgia and we were, of course, discussing feminism. She had some serious issues with me referring to adult female humans as “girls” and “chicks”. I could see her point, but I also thought it was annoying as hell to have to run every thought through a politically correct filter. We stopped and bought coffee from a street vendor, and yes, it was freezing cold and we both felt sorry for the poor woman who was selling coffee on the street. We stopped to speak to her, and I asked her if she owned the Coffee Cart and as I remember it, she said, “Yes, another girl and me own it” and I after we had continued on, I asked my companion why she hadn’t said anything to the woman about using the term “girl”. My companion rolled her eyes and said she very distinctly remembers the woman saying, “Yes, another woman and me own it”
One of us has to be wrong here.

The point of all this is human memory and perception is fallible. Yet we have to ignore this as much as we ignore the fact that even the best baseball hitters fail to hit the ball safely nearly 70% of the time. We accept the margin of error in the name of continuity. We accept the margin of error in the name of maybe the details really do not matter as long as the big picture is correct. It doesn’t matter at all if I remember what the woman said, exactly, but it would be very bad for me to have forgotten the name of the woman I was with at the time.

When a human breaks a bone, or cracks a bone, or catches some disease, mostly we’re pretty much willing to go to someone who will put a limb in a cast, cut out a cancer, or send you home full of pills and drugs that are more dangerous than whatever pathogen you caught while waiting two hours to be told you’re sick. What we will not do, or not do nearly as often, is go speak with someone when our mind begins to show signs of illness.

We, as a species, will accept a certain amount of small mental quirks in ourselves, and other people, when if we knew someone with a broken finger that was sticking out at an angle, we would certain insist they seek help.  We wouldn’t let someone sit there at work and bleed from an open wound, but we will put up with someone who is clearly a little unbalanced in the name of keeping the peace with the office nut.

It is a conspiracy of sorts. The human mind does not want to be poked or prodded with words or meds, because in a sense, that destroys the self within, and that is something the mind does not want. We, as a species, have bought into this.
And the same organ of our bodies which gives us the most trouble, tells us it’s okay.
Take Care,
Mike

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