Vision: More than Meets the Eye

October 13th, 2014

 

 

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“Every man mistakes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

– Arthur Shopenhauer

 

 

Expanding world, shrinking vision

 

© Ilka Wandel

© Ilka Wandel

We live in an over focused world. As our populations grew and went from a nomadic, outdoor life to gathering populations in towns based around agriculture and farming our horizons began to shrink.

 

The industrial revolution saw the rapid rise of cities with factory and administrative work supplying more jobs than life on the land. Life in a large city meant further shrinking of the visual horizon. Technical innovations like electric light meant a lack of true darkness at night and less rest for our visual cortex.

 

Cinema, television and computers (both at work and in the home) drew in our vision to within touching distance of our body. In the last few years the explosion of mobile devices has drawn our focus even closer.

 

Is it any wonder that we have seen such a rapid rise in optician franchise chains across developed countries with record numbers of prescriptions for reading glasses among adults and children alike?1

 

You think your shoulders are the most tense muscles in your body? Spare a thought for the over-engineered muscles controlling your eyeball’s movement, focus and (yes, they are that strong) shape (more on this a little later).

 

At arms length, our capacity to focus can only cover an area of our fingernail. The illusion of a greater focus is just that, an illusion. Simply put, our brain just makes stuff up by ‘rendering’ the surrounding scenery as if it were in focus.

 

 

“Don’t concentrate on the finger that points to the moon or you will miss all that heavenly glory.” – Taoist saying

 

The trouble with over focusing of the near field so much is that it carries over into how we see the world, literally and figuratively. By directing so much attention to the near field of small, detailed objects we try to navigate larger fields in the same way – something we now realize we cannot actually do.

 

We miss so much when we reduce the majority of our focus to a finger nail at arms length. And it is not just a choice between short or long focus. Both are essentially tunnel vision.

 

Instead of switching to a more relaxed, peripheral view of the world we strain to maintain our myopic focus at any distance. This means of course that we are constantly missing the world outside of our immediate focus.

 

 

 

 

Our focusing muscles become like search lights penetrating the night sky like narrow beams while everything around it remains in darkness. It is like looking along our arm to our upward pointing finger. Our narrow need to stay in control of the immediate focus area means we may miss where the finger is pointing.

 

 

 

A wider focus

 

We have another visual capacity that doesn’t involve a specific focus at all: Peripheral vision. Peripheral vision was once our primary visual survival mechanism. To be aware of our total environment was vital. While peripheral vision employs no specific focus it can register movement over a range of more than 180 degrees. It allows us to be aware of potential danger in the form of movement, from a wild animal to a car in traffic.

 

Peripheral vision also allows our focusing muscles to relax, which, as we have seen is useful in itself. The focusing muscles in our eyes are so strong that they can cause the ‘boiled egg’ of the eyeball to distort its shape.

 

© Dr. L.  Altman

© Dr. L. Altman

 

This in turn can distort the lens. So, the most common cure would then be a course of stretching and movement exercises for the eyes so the eyeball (and therefore the lens at the front of it) relaxes back to its natural shape, right?

 

Wrong. This is usually not even mentioned. Instead we are prescribed glasses (or contact lenses) and told we will have to wear them for the rest of our life. For these types of visual problems, the lens in the glasses compensates in the opposite refraction to the distortion of the lens in the eye.

 

The result is the illusion of focus. It is an illusion because, while we will see objects in focus, we won’t be seeing them exactly where they are located in space. In other words, the correction of the glasses ‘pulls’ or ‘pushes’ the object closer or further away in order for us to see it in focus.

 

This is quite confusing for the brain which needs to know where objects are in space to help us avoid physical danger. It is even more dangerous when someone has bifocal lenses. How many of you know someone with these glasses that has missed a step or a gap because their brain is being told it lies a little closer or further away than it actually does?

 

 

Not just looking but a way of seeing

 

All this manic err, focus on having to keep everything in focus all the time affects us in other ways too. Here is an example. A few years ago I was showing a group of people a set of pinhole glasses. These eye training glasses have asymmetrical holes punched in a what is otherwise a solid, opaque plastic ‘lens’.

 

 

pinhole

 

It does not allow the eye to focus on any single thing. Instead we are forced to relax our focus and take in the ‘big picture’ of our surroundings.2

 

One woman in the group could not wear them for more than a few seconds despite several attempts. She became instantly nervous when she found she could not maintain a strict focus on single objects.

 

Later I remarked to one of her friends about the connection between a need for visual control and a wider control need. She laughed and said that this exactly described the personality of her friend.

 

 

Seeing the unseen

 

In another blog (click here ) we mentioned the term ‘soft eyes’ to describe the conscious use of peripheral vision in diagnosis of energy patterns.

 

Peripheral vision is a very useful way to see things that remain invisible to the focused eye. This is probably because we do not see with our eye that well at all but with our mind.

 

© Western News

© Western News

 

If you have ever observed the eyes of a blind person while they navigate the world you will notice the exact same look as someone using peripheral vision to see the unseen. What they are instinctively doing is allowing their mind to see.

 

We can learn to do this too. The results may surprise us – that is, as long as we resist the urge for our controlling mind not to deny and rationalize away what we see!

 

 

Lost in space?

 

By current accounts the parts of space we can see (stars, planets, galaxies and so on) take up only around four percent of the available space.3 The rest appears to be, well, space.

 

Therein lies the trouble with our focus obsession. We are always looking for something while constantly dismissing or ignoring every non-thing. What if ‘no-thing’ was simply the creative potential of ‘some-thing’?; the software driver of hardware forms – remembering that these seemingly solid ‘things’ are constantly being removed from the material worlds (‘dying’) as quickly as they are manifesting into them (being ‘born’).

 

 

Micro-Macro: “The medium is the message” 4

 

Just as our large scale view is profoundly influenced by (literally) telescopic vision so too is the way we investigate the micro worlds through the use of microscopes.

 

The trouble with this over-focused approach is the same as it is for personal vision: we miss the surrounding context. Interestingly, the view of both the micro and macro universes are surprisingly similar.

 

 

Brain tissue vs universe

 

universe and brain

 

The image on the left shows a mouse’s neuronal network, with a prominent neuron and a set of branching axons.

 

The image on the right depicts the “evolution of the matter distribution in a cubic region of the Universe over 2 billion light-years”5

 

 

“It is You”

 

This is a modern English translation of the Sanskrit ‘Tat tvam asi’. It is perhaps the most fundamental statement in the Upanishads about the nature of reality: That the common reality behind everything in the universe is the same as the Divine within us.

 

In other words, for all our manic focusing ‘out there’ or ‘in here’ we may only ever be looking at ourselves.

 

 

 

Have you noticed how the more we try and model or describe the universe the more it looks like we are trying to describe ourselves? The images in the video and comparative photos above look eerily similar. Maybe we have not noticed it yet because our focus has been too, err, focused.

 

We have seen there are many reasons to relax our controlling need to stay focused. Probably the best one though is that when we finally stop looking we might just see something worth looking at.

 

 

 

Till another blurry Monday comes into focus once more

 

 

1 The fact that they are obscenely over-priced with no real competition has seemingly gone unnoticed but that is outside the parameters of this blog

2 Pinhole glasses also provide a natural polarization of light and a crude version (with holes punched in pieces of shell) were used by Eskimos to combat reflective glare on the ice and snow while hunting.

3 Which makes one wonder how scientifically reliable any conclusions made about space are since it ignores or at best theorizes about the remaining ninety-six percent.

4 A phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

5 For more on this direct your browser to the accompanying blog by Manuel Lima:

http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/blog/?p=234

 

 

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© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

 

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