Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blind Spots



You've got one, so do I. All humans have an anatomical blind spot, a section of the visual field where there are no rods or cones, hence no sight. According to wikipedia, the anatomical blind spot is:

The optic disc or optic nerve head is the location where ganglion cell axons exit the eye to form the optic nerve. There are no light sensitive rods or cones to respond to a light stimulus at this point. This causes a break in the visual field called "the blind spot" or the "physiological blind spot."

So why isn't there a blank spot when I look up at the tulip magnolias or stare at the Capitol Dome?** The cool thing is, the brain adds very substantially to the data it receives from your eye. Your brain decides what you should be seeing, what you would be seeing if you could see with your blind spot. In fact, the brain goes far beyond the blind spot while creating the visual field. A lot of what you see is made up by the brain. A lot of what you don't see is "invisible" because your brain decides you don't have to see it or it doesn't matter or doesn't fit in with your world view. These facts beg the question, is there any such thing as an objective reality? I think not!

We are such creative beings, we humans. We make (and later sweep up) sand mandalas, we knit, spin, take photographs, write poems, paint paintings, draw, cook, garden, sing, play instruments. A part of every endeavor involves a blind spot of one kind or another that we compensate for in some way as part of the creative experience. It is our habit to fill in the blank spots, to make our lives seem continuous, to make our personal stories seem fully fleshed out. Perception, in fact, involves a whole lot of conjecture.

This talent of ours, and our tendency to believe the stories we tell ourselves, gets us through the day, so that's a good thing, right? I say yes. Maybe the important thing to remember is that no one else shares exactly the same perception of the complexities of this world. Do you think any member of Congress can remember that today? Hmmm....


**I'm staring at the Capitol dome because I really really really hope Congress passes the health care bill today. I believe if I stare hard enough, they'll HAVE to. I'm certain there's a blind spot in this concept you could drive a truck through. Oh well.


Two lovely pregnant women at Lincoln Park, with their partners.

23 comments:

Barbara said...

"Perception, in fact, involves a whole lot of conjecture." I'm always amazed when you come up with things like this that are so true, but which we are usually blind to. It is true that the mind has an incredible capacity to fill in whatever is missing. That's why we can read sentences with the vowels removed and we never know the difference.

I too am hoping that Congress does the right thing SOON!

Tom said...

so if i ask, 'did you just see what i saw' the answer might be no? Objectivity should be taught(to everybody)

Steve said...

I love those magnolias.

Keeping my fingers crossed for health care!

Rebecca Clayton said...

Ohh...I love the DC magnolias!

Give Congress a good hard look for me too!

Linda Sue said...

Isn't sight curious! Taking a life drawing class we were taught to draw what is there not what we think is there and that was a very interesting, tough excercise, undoing what and where the arms fit on...The instructor , as an afterthought, said "if the compostition is not balanced you may change something to make it so, because the viewer's perceptions will be challenged, not in a good way, in a repelled way."Thus pretty much undoing his previous instruction...There is macular degeneration in our genes- my Dad had it toward the end- his vision was all fucked up but delightful because his brain was also. The two together filled in some gaps with Great stuff! Not real but very real to him...just like all of us, really, but on the extreme scale of "What??".There are studies re: stress and temporary blindness- partial blindness...inability to see an object right in front of one's vision field. Republican's in their fear(selfish) mode are blind but worse than that-made really stupid from it...fingers crossed today. Only because the dome is too far from here to stare at- Keep up the good work, dear Reya! Just the gal for the job!!!

lakeviewer said...

It will pass!
Smart and intriguing post, as usual, Reya. Good to see Washington is growing naturally!

Whitney Lee said...

Fascinating and thought provoking. I love your train of thought on this one. I guess there really is no such thing as true objectivity, not to mention The Big Picture...

ewix said...

Loved EH Gombrich's Art and Illusion
many many moons ago
so excellent on what we see /think we see etc etc.

Here's hoping about health care
not that this bill is perfectionor anything but baby-steps towards something that we NEED
if we are to be remotely civilized
like the Europeans!!!!

oxox

steven said...

reya i was walking through an early spring snow this morning. for whatever reason, i got out of bed pulled on some scruffies and walked through some woods and then down a small river - right in the river. jumping from bank-to-bank, rock-to-rock, mudflat to mudflat, and all the time i was thinking man am i ever glad to see this. but i see what i see and i just felt like i was on such a groove . . . i kept thinking "this is what love feels like". on my way back i was wondering if my pictures - 'cause i took a heap - would carry anything of what i saw. and i realized that it was more about what i felt than what i saw so who knows? which brings me to the two mamas in the bottom pic here. those boys will get some tender pics of their sweethearts and their to-be-born babies but the feeling of that moment, blossoms and their sweet love all wrapped up in the moment - well that'll be theirs and theirs alone and no photograph will really tell it all. steven

Ronda Laveen said...

The brain is a marvelous thing! The best computer in the world. I'm staring at the Capitol with you...hard. In my subjective reality, this bill needs to pass.

Marian Wiseman said...

Rachel wrote that as she is waiting for the vote she hopes she doesn't have to be "disappointed in my country. Again."

I hear so much against health care reform but little for it, even though it would be one of the most positive and grand pieces of legislation in the US for decades. It's always easier to sling arrows at a target.

The Bug said...

I'm hoping health care passes, but it will be somber at work if it does. I work for a student loan company & apparently the student loan legislation tacked onto the bill might provide a death knell for our company. Is it wrong that I care more about health care than my company? I sure hope the changes are positive enough to make up for that loss!

Reya Mellicker said...

I find it completely bizarre that student loan legislation is part of the health bill. It's so WEIRD!!

Tom I think someone once said that if two people share the same hallucination, that's reality. I believe objectivity is a fantasy, though it's not bad to try for it!

On a similar note, Linda Sue: what is "real"?? Please explain.

I wonder if they've voted yet. Guess I'll go check out the wapo website to see.

C'mon ... c'mon ...

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven, yes yes and yes. Can't wait to see your pictures.

Delwyn said...

Yes yes yes Reya...and we also see it upside down....the brain flips it over for us...did you know that?

that beautiful magnolia tree is also fully pregnant...and giving birth to multiple babies...oh what beauty

perception
conjecture
blindspots
subjectivity
sensitivities
proclivities
stories of our making...

all fascinating

thanks for bringing it together in this post today

Happy days Reya

Reya Mellicker said...

Delwyn I forgot that we "see" everything upside down. The data comes in one way, gets flipped on the retina, then flipped again in the brain.

No wonder sometimes I can't figure out if I'm coming or going!

Lori ann said...

sometimes the blind spot is a blessing. i've actually welcomed it being a mother of five.

oh that photo! just gorgeous.
xo lori

Nancy said...

I am always amazed when I realize we don't really see with our eyes, but see a picture reflected back to us in the back of our heads. You have to wonder what else we think we know.

I'm sad about health care. I know I should be happy that something might pass, but giving more to greedy insurance companies just doesn't seem like reform.

Pauline said...

"Perception, in fact, involves a whole lot of conjecture.
"

Oh! I like this sentence! It makes such sense of life!

Dave King said...

Explains some of the refereeing decisions we've encountered recently! Seriously though, fascinating.

Reya Mellicker said...

Nancy I always wonder how much of my world view is based on what I expect to see, what I expect to happen, rather than anything objective.

I feel very happy this morning that the bill passed. It's a first step. I see it as positive while you're sad, and yet both you and I agree about the importance of health care. See? What IS reality??

Don't ask me!

Karen said...

Thanks for this post! It's nice to know that the line between "objective reality" and "imagination" is not always (or even often?) a hard, solid, impenetrable one...

Nishant said...

That's why we can read sentences with the vowels removed and we never know the difference.

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