Friday, July 30, 2010

Seeing In Context

We humans are built for context. We have natural powers such as seeing, hearing, thinking, and the like. But sometimes these powers are not enough by themselves.

Many times I have seen things with my eyes that I couldn't understand. The light photons hitting the rods and cones in my eyes didn't change, but once I figured out the context of what I was seeing, then it all made sense and I could "see" what I was looking at.

Our brains are wonderful in this way; it will happily fill in the "context" for us. Take this illusion of a spinning dancer. Is she spinning towards you or away from you? Clockwise or counter-clockwise? See the in-motion picture here.

[WP] The Spinning Dancer, also known as the silhouette illusion, is a kinetic, bistable optical illusion resembling a pirouetting female dancer. The illusion, created by web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara,[1][2] involves the apparent direction of motion of the figure. Some observers initially see the figure as spinning clockwise and some counterclockwise.

The illusion derives from the lack of visual cues for depth. For instance, her arms could be swinging either in front of her to the left or behind her to the left, and hence with her circling clockwise or counter-clockwise on either her left or right foot. She changes leg because she is facing either towards or away from the observer, there being no surface features on the silhouette to indicate at any point which side of her is presented: the least ambiguous positions are her profiles when she is on either side of her circle, though it's still not known whether the foreground or background leg is on the floor, and from where she moves indeterminately either on the near or far arc across to the other profile.

So the plain fact is, you're looking at it, but you can't tell - it's ambiguous. It depends on what your brain thinks is the context. This particular illusion drove me crazy until it was explained to me how it worked.

A lot of us have spinning dancers in our lives. These are things to which we think we know the answers until something comes and stands it on its head. Or conversely, situations which we simply cannot understand even though we are in the midst of them until they are explained to us. Then the context is provided and we see clearly.

God is like that sometimes. There are things and situations that are beyond our understanding, but not His. He sees the illusion clearly for what it is, whereas the confusion is only in our own minds. If we allow ourselves to be led by Him, He provides the context that makes it all clear - if not here then hereafter.


Anonymous said...

Elegantly expressed. I've experienced this phenomenon many times myself. Now, according to Q, is it Understanding or another gift at work here?
Also, I had a great time with this illusion! At first, as I focused on her I could not help but see her spinning "down" (clockwise). Using my peripheral vision, however, I was able to see her spinning "up". I attempted to continue seeing her spinning "up" as I moved my focus ever closer, until I was finally able to focus right on the dancer and still see her spinning "up".
A minute later, I naturally saw her spinning "up" and could not see her spinning "down" for the life of me!
Interestingly, I usually have no trouble inverting my perception of a cube.


Nod said...

Let's see ...

The Gift of Knowledge judges rightly concerning created things as ordained to the supernatural end.

The Gift of Understanding is for a penetrating intuition of revealed truths, and even of natural truths so far as they are related to the supernatural end.

The Gift of Wisdom is a supernatural habit, inseparable from charity, by which we judge rightly concerning God and divine things under the special instinct of the Holy Spirit who makes us taste these things by a certain intuition and sympathy. In other words The truths of God begin to resonate with us and we begin to instinctively love what God loves, will what God wills. What he is and wills makes great sense to us.

The Gift of Counsel pertains to decisions regarding human actions

Nod said...

Or more simply:

Understanding: Deeper insight into divine truths

Knowledge: Proper judgment concerning truths of faith

Wisdom: Judgment according to divine norms

Counsel: Decisions regarding human actions

Piety: Ordered relations to God and others

Fortitude: Proper use of irascible emotions

Fear of the Lord: Proper use of pleasure emotions

Ref: Q


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