Thursday, March 13, 2008

What we can't see

I was thinking about seeing and believing this week. It's funny how the concept sticks, even in a world where seeing should not mean believing. Much of what we see - at least what we see on screens - is fabricated. It's an elaborate game of make-believe, often even when it pretends to be true.

It's not so much that we believe what we see as it is that we find it hard to trust what we cannot see. And there are at least three categories of things we cannot see. The first is easy: things we cannot see because they have no tangible presence in a physical world. This category includes abstractions - like love or justice - and it also includes everything that is not real or present at a given moment.

The second category is more difficult. I was reminded of it this morning listening to a brain scientist describe her experience of a stroke. She said she remembers looking at a business card and seeing only pixels: her eyes picked up the information but her mind refused to make sense of it. When the information in front of our eyes does not connect with the rest of our experience, we simply cannot see it.

The third category is outside our awareness but not mysterious. We all have blind spots: metaphorically (probably) but certainly we have real physical blind spots. We are not aware of them, because our minds fill in the information that our eyes cannot see.

If you are working with someone who cannot see something that is obvious to you, ask yourself:
1) Is what you are looking at in his/her blind spot?
2) Is what you are seeing so far outside his/her experience that he/she cannot makes sense of it?
3) Is what you are seeing not there at all (is it information that fills in your blind spot or invents enough information to allow you to connect with something else you are seeing)?

There are good reasons why two people can look at the same picture and see different things.

No comments: