Perceptions

I wear glasses and contacts, which for most people isn’t that big of a deal because they put the contacts on in the morning, take them out at night and spend very little time with glasses on. I have the week long overnight contacts (huzzah for getting ones actually made for such things rather than just doing that because I’m forgetful and lazy) which means I often have to take them out long before it’s bedtime. What I have found is that my entire perception of the world shifts, enough so that despite the fact that I can see just as well, the world has moved. The floor is farther away or closer, objects I am reaching for are just slightly off from where my brain tells me they ought to be and my balance is off, at least for a few minutes.

Every time it always makes me wonder (once I’ve gotten over the initial vertigo-esque feeling) how much my visual perception of the world really rules how I think and act. It shouldn’t matter too much, right? Tell that to me when I knock a glass over or get another bruise from bumping into the door frame. To most though we all really only see the world one way for our entire lives. Except there are some intriguing theories and thought-games that I’ve spoken with others about. I dated a guy in high school who would always enter a new room with one eye closed. He would get three different impressions of that room, one with his left eye, one with his right and another with both eyes open. He never really said anything profound about what he saw or why it mattered, but just his attitude about it and why he did it were enough to make me think. Sometimes I remember to try it and I haven’t really had any major eye-opening, world shifting experiences, but it is still interesting to realize what one eye versus the other versus two will notice more or something different. Either that or just my attitude and ability to focus on different things each time I entered was different. *shrugs*

I know that how someone sees the world can make a huge impact. I’ve worn glasses since I was in 4th grade, but I should have been wearing them far earlier. The contrast between having to squint at anything distant and seeing clearly was immense. I went from struggling and getting frustrated with myself for failing at easy tasks at school, at home, in sports, even just watching TV, to being able to fully participate in all my life again. Every time I would go to the optometrist and get a new set of glasses I would experience that all over again and the wonder never really left me.

The thing that really stood out to me though was how much colors would change. I am not colorblind in the least, but without my glasses everything is so indistinct as to appear dull and even transparent sometimes. It has led me to wonder about how people perceive and process things like color. Do we all see the same colors the same way? We all learn that certain shades are called red, others are called blue, others green, etc. but that is because we have all been taught by others, by society that these names correspond with these light frequencies and that we all see everything exactly the same. What if we don’t? What if my “turquoise” is actually someone else’s “marine blue” but because we have been taught that this particular color is marine blue and this particular color is turquoise we still call them the same thing, even if they actually processed by the brain to be different colors.

The only reason why this is something that I want to know if there is something to it would be because I’m curious and I wonder if our different ways of actually seeing the world influence how we interact with it. Someone who has the ability to easily process the fine details of their visual world, colors are sharp, edges well defined, movement more obvious, maybe they are the ones who are more greatly affected by the beauty of the world all around them. People who don’t have those same perceptions, maybe they are more influenced by sound, or touch, or their own internal monologue and thus they will have different impressions, different talents, different ways of thinking, all because of how they process the same information.

For myself, I know that the differences between my glasses and contacts are both minute and extreme at the same time. I have pretty darn good peripheral vision even with glasses on because of band, but that is only for movement. Colors and actual shapes mean nothing to me if they are not in the part of my field of vision that is clear because of my glasses, so I process everything around me differently than what I do when I have my contacts and suddenly everything is clear to the same extent. And don’t even bother trying to talk or interact with me when I don’t have my glasses or contacts on and the lights are on. I am working so hard to “see” the world that I have a hard time focusing on conversations, on noise, on physical touch, on anything really. The way I interact with the world (or the lack of it) is something I am constantly aware of because of my visual deficiency, even though I have lived with it for fourteen of my twenty-five years of life. That has to have impacted how I think about the world, even if I don’t know any other way.

I challenge you to think about how your world changes, even with something as insignificant as walking into a room with one eye closed. How different is your world from so small a change? How many different worlds must there be if we all see the world with a slightly different interpretation, even if the differences are minuscule? How much would our interactions with others change if we were all aware of those differences? Would we even notice?

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