Day 12: Do you believe what you see?
If you do, you are most likely in the habit of trusting your eyes to relay reliable data. But the truth is your eyes are transmitters to your brain of signals about light and color that mean little without the brain’s interpretation. (You can only imagine what an infant makes of the world filtered through a brain that has yet to learn the contextual and cognitive codes for the data it receives)
If you don’t believe me, try this well known optical illusion.
If you are curious about WHY your the data your eyes supplied was misinterpreted by your brain you can read more about it HERE.
Assignment: Today you are going to assume you know nothing true about what you see. I want you to go through your next 24 hours as if your brain is potentially translating the data incorrectly. To do this simply question what you think are seeing.
How? And why?
First the how of it. Choose at least three times today, set your phone alarm ideally, to stop whatever you are doing and gaze on one thing for three minutes or so. A desk, a book, a person you know, a view from your window. Whatever you choose to look at, take stock of the cognitive information that comes with this seeing.
For instance, I am looking right now at a rag doll on a shelf in my bedroom (yes, I work in bed a lot!). To question what I am seeing looks like this; I know my eyes are telling me this is a red and ivory colored object, tilted to one side, with a white object on it’s neck. It has one appendage visible.
My brain is filling in details that may or may not be true. It’s calling this thing a doll. It’s assuming there is another appendage called an arm hidden from view. (Is that true? Maybe my dog ripped it off and it’s missing?)
It’s a strange exercise because as you go deeper into it, you begin to engage the “story” of of the object as well. The cultural story or the personal one. In this case, my brain/mind tells me this was a Christmas gift made by a sister.
What becomes apparent in this experiment is how much of what you see is really about the mind’s meaning making machinery—this is not a red and ivory object with three visible appendages. It is a rag doll made by my middle sister as a Christmas gift seven years ago and it has two legs and two arms, one is simply hidden.
Why do this experiment? Because the habit of believing what we see to be true in an absolute sense is one of the ways we have blinders to the magic of life and who we really are. Our perceptual habits become perceptual straight jackets.
This gorgeous quote by Robert McCammon in his novel Boy’s Life sums it up in many ways:
When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.
Over the next few days the assignments in this challenge are going to be about undoing some of the perceptional and cognitive conditioning that might have withered the magic you likely knew as a child.
We are going to play at widening your perceptions and unwinding any knots in the flow of wonder. And it’s going to be fun!
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