Arts

The Dance of Eye and Mind

Humans are visually oriented, and have a love of the bright colours, blue, yellow, gold, blonde and white that catch the eye at a distance.

It is easier to notice the pollen on the leaf than it is to notice the leaf itself. It is, in part, the ability to recognize difference. All of these colours were known as one to our ancestors. The best word for them in today’s English might be “flash.” They are flashes of light that catch the eye, just as the sunflower above has caught a bee out of the air.

It is easier to see the mariposa lily above than the seedheads on the cheatgrass surrounding it. It catches the eye. This ability to be caught by difference before it is consciously apprehended is powerful. It’s like a dog seeing the outline of something pass by and turn to get a good sniff at it to smell out what it is. The other colour that accompanied flashes to our ancestors was blackness. It leapt out as well. Take these black choke cherries, for instance.

Or the black wasp and the white snow buckwheat below, with two kinds of flashes in one, one white and one black.

Or the black haws below. Here it’s only distance that makes them appear black. Up close they are a rich purple. In this case, we see black where it is not, which is a clue to the human eye drawing attention to distant objects, for closer observation. It follows the natural progression of visual data, from the eye catching flashes to the mind interpreting them in terms of experience. Our bodies follows the process, extending it in time and space. We act out the mind thinking. It’s rather like a dance.

The process is even useful in identifying grasses. Below, some crested wheatgrass is growing beneath some cottonwood trees, which shade its seeds black against a background of light. The contrast reveals them. In the open, they would be more hidden. Edge environments, or blended environments, in other words, fit the human eye-mind-body process better than purely open ones. We are, after all, native to savannah trees. Open grass is not, for us, a place for lingering. It is a place of movement towards the next place of shelter and abundance.

For this reason, we see the lone tree below before the grass, although the grass is more abundant and covers a larger space.

Thought is a physical process.

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