Some Thoughts about Vision
September 16, 2019
Our eyes are adapted organs. They are used by us in our making sense of the world around us. They tell us that there is space available in which we can move our bodies; that there is colour in the world; that this thing is distant and at an angle from our point of view, and that thing is more central in front of our range of perspective.
All this information given to us via our eyes comes to us in hardly-imaginable detail – even the smallest hint of shade or change of hue is able to be detected quite easily by most of us. Even on a broad scale of say a panorama of a view across mountains on a clear day and from a height, we can see countless detail; and it might take us some time to look around and pick out what we might from such a detailed and extensive view.
Then there is looking at paintings and photographs, television and cinema; which are ‘flat’ representations of 3D sights. We ‘fill-out’ all the illusion of perspective and distance, proportion and colour, shade and movement, by use of our eyes. We do this automatically, and I am sure there is no period of learning or adjustment required by any of us, for us to have gotten used to the first cinematic movies, photographs, paintings. No enabling period needed in which we came to make sense of them and what they presented as views to us.
But the very fact of us not having had need of an enabling period to be able to interpret photos and cinema etc, tells us something pretty extraordinary about ourselves, about our eyes, our vision and what we happily call ‘reality’.
(Before I go on I want to say that, yes, there probably was a period in our lives during which we were schooled by appearances and by our actions and responses into seeing the world as we do, with 3D perspective. Very early on perhaps when we were perhaps hardly aware we were a person, as a very young infant, our moving around, seeing others moving around, and a host of other visual and sensual data incoming to us, has altogether formed our appreciation of space and distance, angle and perspective etc. So early on that we have it now as if it were natural to us, what we call second nature, but in this case more or less indistinguishable from natural per se I thnk.
But something like colour, light and shade, perhaps cannot be learned, and these items are with us from our first stirrings and awakenings into conscious perception. In the womb. I don’t believe, and it doesn’t make sense to me to say, that colours can be learned; likewise light and shade. These are the givens upon which the rest of our visual apparatus is built and completed. It is upon these basic givens, light and dark and colours, that our secondary apparatus builds for each of us our personal versions of visual experience.
But this does not mean to say that colour is in fact ‘out there’ where we see it; only that our responses to the various types of light that we can see is expressed to our perceptions in what we call the different colours and their various degrees of hue and tint. And so colour is in fact a limited expression of visual perception innate in us, congenital, or and as the gamers say preloaded. Much more on this topic later)
Because we are able to make 3D sense of flat views in photos and cinema; make sense of these 2D images, in all their glory, even to an extent of being duped sometimes into reflexive defensive actions when a cinematic ‘trick’ fools our minds that we are going to be hit or caught in a crash.
Because we can do this, and we do do this no trouble, this fact does pose a strong possibility, I would go as far as to say to certainty, that what we consider to be our actual 3D experience of space and dimensions, room for movement and actions, travel and new experience – the whole shooting match, including senisitvity to light expressed as colour even – is either autogenerated, preloaded, in our minds (colour and light perception) or else made by us in our infancies, making us become dyed in the wool creatures with deep second nature understanding of the terms of existence for our physical bodies in the world and in our lives.
What I am saying in simple terms is that our experience in the world, of movement, of space, as well as all that understanding coming from us being aboe to see, and the other senses, in all its immense variety and detail; our grasp of tenor for the whole universe in fact, is no more than a very convincing massive photographic or cinematic experience in which we are alive and possess being.
Even the very conception of time passing comes seriously into question, and if the idea of time is jettisoned it leaves only what scientists call the fact of entropy dangling as a questionmark asking why entropy should occur. Entropy is more or less things wearing out. Everything we expereince seems to wear out or to be wearing out, running down like the movement of a wound clock, and like the clock parts themselves because of the wear and tear of constant winding, running, and rewinding. Just like when we grow old and deteriorate as physical, and sometimes also it appears, as psychical entitites.
Entropy it appears to me is our only ‘evidence’ for time passing: if things didn’t wear out then time would be no issue, assuredly non-existent. However it’s possible that unless there were entropy there could be no freedom for anything alive or non-living to move in any way in any direction – in fact total stasis. And current scientific naysaying proclaims that this is the fate of us all, the whole universe ends in sullen stasis, eventually all wound down inert in the remotest and unvisualisable futures aeons away.
However let’s get on – there’s plenty more phenomena in nature yet to be understood in some amount of detail - so don’t let’s get too concerned about the end of the universe as it is mooted by the pundits in our days.
Now that we have technologies offering us virtual realitites, it becomes even more apparent to me that it is very possible that our infancies were occupied in large part by us absorbing ‘how to interpret’ what was in our fields of vision, hearing etc etc. A massive jigsaw of making sense of where we have been born into. Moreover science in our time is self-confessedly reaching places and points of investigation at which intuition and common sense tend to break down and no longer apply in scientific terms. The new langauge of the new century talks of ‘counter-intuitive’ and of ‘non-reconcilables’ and such concepts which are used to describe apparent observations, especially at very minute and at very gross levels of maginitude.
We are in an age where at the cutting edge of science things just literally are not adding up for us any longer. Either we have got it wrong and need a new tack or else it is perhaps in the nature of things that they are at some point, scientifically-speaking, beyond our ken.
I ask you however – why should not our senses of space, form, extension, movement, entropy; all be in fact a 2D-like illusion. I don’t mean like Harry Potter and the images in photographs moving and ‘living’, like Sirius Black shown struggling behind bars in Askaban. I mean that our material ‘reality’ ; that is, all things which as we use our minds and our senses we perceive outside ourselves, which comprises all our accumulated non-cogitative experience, and maybe we make all our cogitated experience out of it? - is this reality other than actual space and extension and persective and hardness and softness and loudness and silence etc etc?
Is this ‘reality’ in some way to be considered akin to, or to be paralleled in, or exemplified in a way we can relate to, by a cinematic production on film; one in which we are involved doing things, and at the same time are watching? Is space and extension in fact real? Are all the things we see and hear and touch and taste and smell – are they no more than some kind of program or programme or virtual reality or something set up – in order for being to exist – and so when we hit our thumbs with a hammer, at once the appropriate thump, and the pain and damage occur, just as in a computer game such things parallel such events?
Of course but only practically-speaking, if this is the case, this scenario means my conjectures do not matter at all, because a) they can’t be proven or disproved, and b) it makes absolutely no difference practically speaking whether I am correct or not – things go on the same in actuality either way.
But I do think my conjectures do matter, since they are able to make minds who read about this topic and who understand something of what I’m getting at – it can make such minds more open to ideas and sympathies with ‘othernesses’ and help persuade such people of the indubitably true fact that all is not as it seems. All is not likely to be as custom, and as culture and history, and as science and investigation, and as abstract thought and so on, have conceived it to be – for this our bagage train has come about partly by accident – partly by us following on from men and women who went before us – partly by us putting together pieces in the particular puzzle of ‘what is reality?’ we have opted to try to solve.
There’s no going beyond confusions and contradictions in particle physics and in cosmology at present, as we are doing things right now. In one very important sense the world and everything in it remains as utterly mysterious and inexplicable as it was when people first awoke to self-consciousness aeons ago. In that important sense we are no further on in explaining being – despite pundits being happy to try to explain it away in a few prognostications about stasis and entropy and total inertness eventually.
I think the misake scientists make in these fields, cosmology and partical physics, is that they tend to believe they are ‘nearer’ to reality’ in the vastly great and in the modestly minute, than they and we all are in the magnitudes we occupy in our daily lives – I’m using here the conventional descriptions of time and space of course.
As if it were that our magnitudes of reality, day to day, are commonplasce and somewhat humdrum, so they are therefore devalued and relegated qua reality. Football League Division 2 reality as it were. The particle physicists and cosmologists of course are Premier League stars involved in real reality.
If my conjecture is correct at all – that space light extension is a sort of mirage, like when at the funfair you pay a pound and sit on a chair inside a house on an axis, that turns while you feel and fear you are about to fall to the ‘ground’ - then the universe – or what we term the universe – and whatever else is around – as if it were a vast amount of data on a 5 terrabyte SSD drive – might be of zero size in fact in terms of extension – in fact extension may not exist, and indeed be our total illusion!?
The point is that this scenario is possible - even likely – and it does not cure the mystery of it being so at all in any way.
What it does do is to open up the mind to pathways towards awe and - dare I say it – the necessity for God – and so for worship, prayer, thanks, and joy.
Let’s give you some thoughts about colour to chew on, thoughts which are hard to be refuted and which therefore open up the possiilities for where and whom we might be altogether.
Colour is not out there – blue is not ‘in the sky’, red is not ‘in the barbecue charcoal’. It is fairly well established that some waves which are of the same kind as those waves we perceive as colour and light, we do not see and we can only detect by inference or deduction. It is fairly well established that some animals see colours which are ‘not on human radar’ as it were.
Likewise with sounds – the bat is a well known case.
Our minds impose, interpret, conjure up, colours according to the various waves of light our eyes are visually sensitive to. Light is merely something much of which humans can somehow digest and work with to help us make sense of sights.
A painted picture works for our perceptions very much by use of coloured pigments and their disposals here there all around on a canvass and which altogether form and illusion of light and shade, distance, form, space, extension, focus, perspective, and so on. Our minds do something pretty akin to this building up of a digestible presentation based on incoming data, which data are our groundings for our understanding of the disposals of objects in space in the world around us.
Our minds in fact create more of our reality than is available to us to perceive via our senses. Much of what we asume is true, is there, is real, has been filled in by our repeated and reiterated assumptions working in our minds, and since, maybe even somewhat before, our births.
I hope my ramblings don’t begin making you feel alarmed or unsettled – I don’t think my writings will unaccountably alter reality, nor will the status quo around us change concerning how existence is, to other than how it would have changed regardless.
And if we cannot see items we have nonetheless deduced are ‘out there’ - like certain waves of the same kind light is – then is it vastly specualtive of me to suggest there are likely to be other, perhaps many other, and perhaps some truly remarkable phenomena, we are not privy to, which our radar does not pick up, which have not (yet?) been deduced by us?
The alternative phrasing of this question would be: do we think we now know all there is to know?
Such rambles and ruminations like these here are ultimately liberating – just being able to perceive very darkly that possibilities are not restrained, not exhausted, not confined to one straight down the centre no turnings tram track – this is joy – this is seeing life and existence as it actually is – by which I mean it is a something unaccountably miraculous and fearfully and wonderfully made.