Thursday, October 20, 2011

To See Or Not To See

With seeing as the most common metaphor for understanding, it’s not surprising that there would also be many different metaphors that describe ignorance as what interferes with it.
Originally put on horses so things on the side of the road wouldn’t distract them, “blinkers” had a useful function. The metaphor “blinkered vision” could be seen as a positive, a focus on the goal that ignores everything else. It suited the verbal, linear, single cause and effect view within the twentieth century idea of progress and propelled its machine. With the field of variables pruned so far down, the illusion of control is created. But any realistic view of a situation includes variables in all directions. Though excluding things to learn more about a single area can have value, does what is learned have any meaning without the role of that area in a larger context?
My blog community (those that visit this site) is from all over the world, from the Ukraine to the Philippines, India and Germany, Sudan and China, people joined by ideas. And one of the central ideas that weaves through visual philosophy is the value of a bigger picture. A larger perspective is the route to the wisdom necessary to change the world. When the camera pans over the demonstrators on Wall St. there’s more variety of individuals than I’ve ever seen at a protest. Those interviewed all have different angles on what’s happening that give dimension to our understanding. So many kinds of lives have been damaged by the blinkered vision and unchecked greed that’s ruining this country. A few people hoarding all the money will lead us back into a technological feudalism. When work can be done anywhere we’re almost always working. Making profits as the only goal means not caring who gets trampled on the way. When we keep from seeing the impact of our actions we can convince ourselves we’re not responsible. Seeing changes our view. Tightly held views are threatened by the challenge of open eyes.
Words are blinkers. As we walk the street the word “beggar” keeps us from seeing the specific individual. The word “fool” or “dupe” keeps us from being the compassionate human we could. We find “enemies” to be responsible for our dissatisfactions and make demons and “bad guys” out of people who see the world with different blinkers. We build the words into creeds and the blinkers get bigger, enable more damage to be ignored, more people not to see, for the sake of a bunch of words.
Scientists suggest that blinking when lying represents a minute retreat from what’s about to be said. Finding this out made me start counting blinks when politicians were speaking on camera. In slow motion it was like some had their eyes shut the whole time. I started watching in slow motion after learning about Paul Ekman’s work on microexpression. He said we could control our primary facial expressions but that underlying motives and attitudes would show in the transitions between them. Watching presidential primary debates in slow motion showed an entirely new persona in some cases, underlying psychology that was sometimes scary in it’s zealotry or condescension. Without the words to distract me their stance toward the world and other people could be seen as far more complex and enlightening.
We can see more and better without the screen erected by verbal language. Turn off the sound and wipe it clean to perceive more of what counts.

1 comment:

B. said...

"Words are blinkers" is such a brilliant line. And helpful point. This blog is intellectual healing.