Psychic Blindness

26 04 2010

Despite its name, it’s really not the sort of thing one would go to a palm reader for.    Psychic blindness is a fancy name for a vaguely defined problem, when a person’s eyes are working, but the mind is not seeing.

As a physiological problem, psychic blindness can result from brain damage.  Though the eyes are working and the signal is getting to the brain, it cannot be properly processed.  As a psychological problem, psychic blindness is effectively a dissociative disorder, whereby a person denies his own sight.  He sees, but he does not acknowledge.  He claims to be blind, but he still reacts to visible threats.

On a more common level, it affects everyone.  This is the aspect to psychic blindness that doesn’t make the medical journals.  We’ll say you’re looking through the refrigerator for a bottle of ketchup, and you feel confident that you’ve searched every last inch of the interior.  It’s gone.  It couldn’t possibly be anywhere in there.  You ask your spouse where it went, and your loved one walks straight to the refrigerator and pulls it from a parallel universe (the middle shelf, near the front).  You can’t say that you didn’t see it, because it was right there in front of you.  You were staring right at it.  Yet, you didn’t see it.  That’s a limited form of psychic blindness.  The eyes were working, and the image of the ketchup bottle was transmitted to the brain, but it got lost in the paperwork.

Now, being unable to find a specific object might be a memorable example, but it is not a representative one.  Let’s say you were not looking for the ketchup bottle in the first place.  Would you see it?  In fact, you would have been even less likely to see it if you had not been looking.  Therefore, if we are occasionally blind to objects that we are looking for, we must be very blind to many objects which we are not looking for.  It’s like the man who claims that he sees no evidence of God.  He has not looked, and if he looked, he would not try to find, and if he found, he would pretend that he did not find anything at all.  Finding God is a challenge to them who want to find God, and it is an impossibility to those who do not.

I do not know how many square inches of surface area the interior of my home has, including all of the objects contained therein, but the vast majority of my attention is drawn to 198 square inches of it, my computer monitor.  The reason is simply because it captures my interest.  It continues to change.  Every last object within sight of me gets ignored from one day to the next.  This is a mental efficiency.  The mind does not need to take continual notice of things which do not change, and it tends not to notice things that change slowly.  On the whole, I think I must ignore billions of details per day.  From the knickknacks on the desk in front of me, the loaded bookshelves to my side, or the decorations to my right to the living room that I never use, I am surrounded by an environment of my own making, which we have lovingly arranged for our comfort and pleasure.  I see all of this every day, and yet, like the ketchup bottle it is all invisible to me.

Yesterday, I sat in an outdoor eating area, watching the drama unfold in the lives of a community of sparrows.  I watched their courtship.  I watched them hop around, looking for food.  I watched a nearby kid nearly step on one, except that the sparrow was far more observant than he was.  The birds were invisible to everyone but us.  The other diners were blind to this detail.

In the evenings, I have walked along a sidewalk, observing how the residents spent their time staring at a television.  The air was crisp, and the moon reflected off of the ocean just a stone’s throw away.  Surely, they must have paid millions for this view, but they were blind to it.  House after house was illumined by the same blue glow.

I have been in homes where clutter littered the floor, the desktops, the chairs and even the yard.  They may have been too lazy to clean it up, or they may not have had enough time, or they may have even been unable, mentally, to solve the problem, but in the end, they got used to their situation.  Eventually, they stopped seeing the trash.  The eyes still worked, but the mind did not see what the eyes were conveying.

I have seen people put themselves into destructive relationships, boyfriends who used their ladies, friends who manipulated their peers, drugs that rotted the body and well-being of the user.  I have seen sin destroy a life, and I have seen the sinner stare straight at his circumstances and continue walking into it.

I have seen a piece of wood grow and stretch, developing little solar panels, capturing light.  I have seen it tap into an underground source of water, drawing moisture from depths less than a well could find it.  I have seen cells that knew exactly what shape to take and what function to serve, because they knew exactly where they were in the body.  I have learned of an engineer’s plans, written in multiple redundancy, for the construction of an organism that could find energy without a wall socket or a battery supply.  It could find materials to repair itself and make another of its own kind.  It could do all of this with nothing special at its disposal.  Release it into the woods, and it could make do with anything that it found.  It was more advanced than anything made by humans.  I have seen people look at it and call it a freak accident, as though one might spill a glass of milk and accidentally make a cow.  Their eyes work, but their minds do not see.

We learn from the things that we afford our attention.  What we do not see, we do not experience.  What we do not experience, we do not live.  All of the joys of real life, the physical, tangible things, are lost to our blindness.  The spiritual things are twice removed from our sight.  Everything has been reduced to a flat screen and whatever shines forth from it.  Everything we learn, we are taught.  People have become inept at learning for themselves, could not even begin to see, even if they looked.

Within the view of everyone who reads this is an innumerable array of details and objects, but the biggest question on anyone’s mind is, “I wonder what’s on television?”

That’s psychic blindness of the common sort.

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