The Path is Short the Way is WideSubmitted by Chris Kakistocraski on Fri, 01/31/2014 - 17:47
(Alternate title: Mine Eyes Deceive Me)
For the thousandth time the Daily Paul has led me to discover something new about myself and the world around me, and it all started with music.
I love music of all types, periods and genres. When the Classical Music Thread appeared I was happy to participate. So I posted an animated video of an Eric Satie song. Then, wanting to play along, I tipped my laptop on its side and discovered that my entire worldview has been incorrect, probably since the day I was born.
What happened is that my computer screen transformed from a near square to a long rectangle. It now appeared longer than it was wide. When I righted the computer the screen returned to its original 'proper' shape. Or did it? I removed my glasses and tried it again but the illusion persisted.
I experimented with objects around me: Sure enough, tall, narrow books became squat and squarish when tipped on their sides. My cigarette lighter gained in girth and lost in length. All my cereal bowls revealed themselves to be slight ovals.
Setting out later that day I felt slightly safer knowing that the road ahead of me wasn't quite as long as it appeared to my eyes, and indeed it was slightly wider than how I saw it.
The next morning I awoke with this thought still in my mind. It occured to me that maybe this illusion, this deception might be a fault in just one of my eyes. So I closed the left one and looked at a picture hanging on the wall, first with head on pillow and then with head tilted horizontally. Same effect. I closed my right eye and tried it again but was immediately distracted by the fact that the same picture now appeared a deeper shade of blue. Closing one eye then the other the colors shifted back and forth. With both eyes open everything blended together.
Then I glanced at the clock on the wall and noticed that the second hand lingered for a while before moving forward. I glanced away for a moment and when I looked again the same thing happened. No big deal, I thought. This is nothing more than the 'saccade effect', which is when your eyes move and your brain automatically overwrites the previous brief moment of your memory, causing us all to live an average of 40 minutes every day in the past.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these discoveries of how my own brain deceives me constantly, I shut my eyes and noticed that for the briefest moment between light and darkness there was nothing. My eyes neither saw nor didn't see - there was a noticeable microsecond of 'nothing'. Is this what the blind 'see' all the time I wondered?
I started thinking about other people and whether or not they saw the world as taller and narrower than it actually 'is', the world bluer or redder than it actually 'is', the world slightly later than it actually 'is', the world darker than it actually 'is'. Do I see the world as it actually 'is'?
Through all these self-experiments I was forced to conclude that in fact I don't see the world as it actually is - not by a long shot. Could this disagreement between what my eyes see and what is actually there explain some of the small differences of opinion between myself and the people close to me? Why some people see some things as hard when I see them as easy? Why some people see some things as fair when I see them as unfair? When I see some things as obvious and others see them as obviously wrong?
Shaking these nagging thoughts from my beleagured mind I reached for a cup of coffee and noticed that it took a brief moment between when I touched the cup and when I felt the heat. Turning around I noticed the sound of the brewing shift ever so slightly. Oh brother, here we go again...