The longer I live, the more I marvel at my assumption that when I sling my foot over the edge of my bed each morning the ground will be there. I also marvel that we puny homo sapiens pursue “truth” as if the universe could be filtered through the tiny slits of our eyes, the tiny holes in our ears and noses, or the tips of our fingers. Can the finite really contemplate the infinite? And yet each morning, I get out of bed and walk toward the bathroom aware, unlike the heroine of my novel Trompe l’Oeil, that I know little about my circumstance and am constantly betrayed by my senses and my brain.
Do I exaggerate? No. Let me invite you to stare into a mirror for a full minute and you will discover that I am right. The experiment I suggest is part of a paper entitled, “Strange Face-in-the-Mirror Illusions.”* (“Vanished without a Trace,” by Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik, Scientific American Mind, July/August, 2013, pg. 19) During that interval of staring, most people will see their image break apart and will experience the “Strange-face illusion.” What appears in the mirror may be facial deformities, or the face of an alive or deceased parent, or archetypal faces like that of an old woman, or a child, or the portrait of an ancestor. Sometimes animal faces appear. (Ibid pg. 19) Scientists call the phenomenon Trozler fading. The explanation is simple. After prolonged gazing, the neurons of our eyes become desensitized and stop giving a response. The brain then fills the gaps with whatever images it chooses. (Ibid, pg. 20).
That our vision tires and the brain creates its own experience is the stuff of illusion and shows how easily we can be fooled by the senses we believe inform us. Artists and magicians take advantage of this phenomenon and there are visual games that do the same. Visual games are particularly depressing to me because I often have difficulty seeing the intended illusion. I’m not sure what to make of this. Could it be madness?
Did I just see your head nod in answer to my question? Or was that another of my delusions?
*Research for the article cited above was done by Giovanni B. Caputo of the University of Urbino in Italy.
(Courtesy of www.coolopticalillusions.com)