What's Behind Your Eyes? You'd Be Surprised.

Every day we read some new discovery. In the vast physics of space right down to the intimate biology of us. Years ago, the author Marcel Proust put discovery into perspective: "The only true voyage of discovery would not be to visit strange lands, but to behold the universe through the eyes of another."

That, my friends, will be the most compelling yet complex Eureka! in your life. Frankly, though, there's no known way in all this world you and I will ever know it. If Proust's words struck a chord, then the rest of this will make sense. If you heard no chord, best you forget it.

The classic film "Roshomon" dramatizes Proust by letting the audience see the same event through the camera's eye of all the different people present. Something like your last Rorschach Test showed how your reality is always behind-the-eyes. While the optic nerves are processing the scene, the brain is processing the significance.

How? A crazy-quilt network of past preferences and prejudices, fantasies and fears, are instantly filtering the physical scene out there into what it means to you inside you. Lady GagGa...? She becomes anything from wonder to wild to whore to whatever deeply private conclusion your brain has stored all these years that defines: music, style, beauty, womanhood. Barack Obama...? He becomes more than what he says and does, more about what your brain has stored about Blackness, thinness, scholarship.

Additional examples...? Far too many to count, for the brains behind the eyes are doing it right now as each different brain is reading these words through the filters of its own treasure trove of experiences starting from the day it was born.

With 7 billion brains at work on this planet -- good lord, does that mean no one really knows exactly what any one else knows at an known time? It should take only your one brain to figure that out. Once you do, you may think of your tomorrow out there as Mission Impossible.

Or, if your brain is inclined toward the positive, you'll simply think of it as a Mission.

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  • Jack, isn't the optic nerve only the transmitter of information to the visual cortex, where it is interpreted?

    As far as processing the significance or meaning of the visual information, I'm not sure if neuroscience has pinned down what does that. St. Thomas Aquinas would say the intellect does .

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Aquinas, I bow to your medical wisdom. Yes, that's how I think the nerves and cortex work. But as we both know, the brain is only what our animality has produced through evolution; the mind is what our humanity is about. Which somehow involves the intellect. But it gets complicated for me thereafter. As I'm sure both you and Thomas would agree. Still a ways to go in fathoming all this.......

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