“Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all…but lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall…lend me your eyes I can change what you see…but your soul you must keep totally free…” – Mumford & Sons
I must admit that I am no photographer. Still I couldn’t resist capturing the images of a pair of avian amigos that have been visiting me lately. Earlier this winter I placed a tree branch in the center hole of a patio table on my back deck to get a closer look at the birds in the neighborhood. It has been a pleasure to watch who shows up throughout the day. I just happened to be treated to watching this chubby blue jay who sat for quite some time watching me eat lunch. This cute downy woodpecker appeared on the suet hanging nearby and for a few minutes their sharing of the space before me kept me entertained.
I’ve been inclined to bird watching over the past few years. Perhaps as way to remember my mother who enjoyed bird watching or to engage my daughters in appreciating wildlife. I”m not certain but I”ve wondered lately more about what might be happening in my brain that creates a naturally desirable personal experience when observing nature. According statistician and information design expert Edward Tufte the human retina communicates to the brain at a rate of 10 million bits per second! That is quite a bit of information. Still there is a vast amount of information “out there” just beyond our selves that we will never experience. Our brains are physical organs and have a limited set of properties and attributes. “The Ego Tunnel” is the name my favorite contemporary philosophy of mind philosopher, Thomas Metzinger, titled a book he wrote for lay audiences on his theory of the “self model” concept of the self. He describes or ego/self as a sophisticated high definition, multidimensional tunnel. While it has miraculous qualities that allow us to have exceptional experiences, it is none the less an experience of “darkness”. It is preventing us from experiencing all there is “out there to experience”. Remember those science fiction movies where the hero has an encounter with God and is exposed to absolute reality? They usual dissolve or implode. If the writers are kind the hero might get out of it with white hair and a serious headache!
When I examined the images of the jay and downy however I was struck by the resolution and capacity of a machine to capture such a robust image. Despite my lack of photography skills I had captured a beautiful moment in time that I could revisit over and over. I have heard of a type of photography called “intuitive photography”. The photographer in this style takes advantage of a state of mind in which she is the most perceptually open to information from the “outside”. The moment something catches her eye she snaps the shot. The goal is to not allow the inevitable judging, interpreting, categorizing, and classifying that goes on in the brain to influence the selection of the subject. What seems to occur is the photographer captures images that she otherwise would not have thought to focus on. Things are seen that aren’t when the organizing of the ego is awakened.
So, on one hand we can never “see it like it is”. On the other what a fun world to live in where we can constantly see new things. Just take a moment and sense into your body. Really check in with all five of your senses. Now look around the room you are in an see without judgment, without interpretation, without categorizing, and without classifying. Everything comes to life. Or rather, you come to life. This way of “seeing” the world I call the “Experiencing Self Awareness”. It doesn’t require memory and allows us to take in more of what is out there. It’s not always comfortable to see what is out there and we can develop patterns of “not seeing” that are fostered by rigid ways of classifying, judging, interpreting, and categorizing. If you notice yourself getting into a rut in your thinking try to refocus on your senses and shake those preconceived notions of what is out of your focus for a while!