Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Joy 24/82: Seeing
Years ago, I was at a shopping mall and noticed a crowd of people around a vendor cart. I went to see what was so interesting and found people looking at "magic 3D pictures." You probably remember them ... they looked completely abstract until you looked at them in a certain way and then a hidden picture would emerge. Or, at least that's what they told me. I looked and looked but couldn't see anything except the abstract picture. I went back to the cart time after time and still couldn't see what they were talking about. I finally decided it was a case of mass hysteria and that there really wasn't anything there.
But, one day I was in a book store and found a book of postcard-sized examples and an instruction about bringing it up to your nose and then pulling it slowly away. I tried it and suddenly a sail boat emerged out of the abstraction. I was stunned ... and humbled. That became a defining experience for me as I realized that there were undoubtedly many things I couldn't see and many ways to be blind. Scientifically we know that there are ranges of light and sound waves that we cannot see or hear so it seems entirely possible that what we perceive as "reality" might, indeed, be very different.
It reminds me of a service station on U.S. 395 that runs up the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra. It was always one of our favorite stopping spots because it had a tube mounted on a pipe and when you looked through it, you could see which peak was Mt. Whitney. What if we are all looking through a fixed tube and outside that limited view, there is a Universe that we never see at all? The "tube" is the constraints of our human perceptions. My dog smells things I cannot smell and hears sounds I cannot hear. In some way her Universe is as incomprehensible to me as the possibility of a "changeless, timeless, infinity" that questions everything I think and believe about "reality."
About the image: View of the Sierra from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. I didn't have my tube with me so I don't know if Mt. Whitney is in this view or not.