Things aren’t always as they seem. You can look at a painting and see one thing, and it will be all you see until someone points out something you never noticed before. There are artists who specialize in deception and optical illusions, giving paintings surreal 3D effects or letting images spin while they really don’t move at all. I find it fascinating. On a smaller scale, pretty much in the backyard of our home I witness optical illusions too, hidden treasures in photos and landscape scenes. Faces hidden in rocks, old wise men disguised in trees. I don’t go purposely looking for them, but sometimes an image surprises me and makes me wonder what else I have missed.
My curiosity about the “invisible” world didn’t show up overnight. I started with a simple well-known logo that was highlighted in an educational video while I worked at The Banff Centre. The FedEx logo is something we all encounter on the buses driving around town and nothing seems out of the ordinary. Five letters, F.E.D.E.X, that is it. That is until someone pointed out to me there’s an arrow between the last E and X. Not a huge revelation by any means. What is huge, is that the arrow is all I see now, on every package, on every van and even in Tom Hank’s Castaway. Whoever pointed it out to me, thanks very much, but not really.
It was an interesting discovery that kind of faded into the background until I recently took a photo that brought the whole experience back to light. A close-up of some ice crystals on a frozen creek seemed a nice enough macro shot, but while observing my mosaic of photos at home, all I noticed was a glaring eye staring at me, like father winter was keep a close eye on me.
Despite the image being composed of some feathered crystals called hoar frost, all I see, time after time, is the eye. My brain is relentless and stubborn. It loves the route it just discovered and is determined not to veer off for a while. I wonder if it’s the same route as the FedEx van drives every day.
The big revelation lies in the question what else I have missed in life. What crosses my path every day and haven’t I noticed? What is it my mind chooses to see and what is it, even right smack in front of me, my brain chooses to ignore or label as something it has already encountered a thousand times?
On many occasions I tried to change habits or behaviors that didn’t serve me, tried to flick the destiny switch in my life. I decorated the kitchen cupboards and walls of our house with fluorescent sticky notes, reminding me of my newly intended behaviors, encouraged by the common concept that it only takes 3 weeks to make a new behavior your own. As I often found, the new behaviors didn’t last. Like the supposedly sticky notes, they eventually stopped sticking.
What if changing a behavior was as easy as seeing the arrow, seeing the eye in the snow and never going back to the old routine. What if an eye opener constructed a new freeway in our brain, like a freshly paved autobahn that whole of Germany has been waiting to use. Can one experience, one encounter with another human being, blast you into a permanent new awareness, cause the bridge to old behavior to crumble behind you, disappear into the vast open space of underutilized gray matter? I do not have the answer, but it sure is an interesting question.