My Issue & My Love Affair With Light
Imagine You Are Light. Freaky thought but go on. You will like it. You can get about really quick.
Light. You are truly something. You are that bright stuff that hits everything – that’s every ‘thing’ – and you enable us humans to see. If you were really smart you wouldn’t have stopped there. You would have made us understand. But OK I guess we now have the Internet. Wait! That doesn’t make us understand either.
Light – come on!
Imagine we were light on a trip through an eyeball, it comes in through the pupil and heads straight to the back of the eye. The retina (the layer of the eye’s wall) is rammed with photoreceptor cells. They capture the energy in light and change it into the electrical language of the nervous system. Clever!
Well it’s a start.
My issue with all this is that (whatever happens) what we see gets associated with what we call knowledge and experience. And often that’s just going too far. This visual magic becomes the dictionary of everything we believe. That’s because we establish all our learning alongside everything we associated with the view. It’s risky.
Be it book, accident, holiday, campfire, conversation, film, drive-by shooting, camel race, argument, relationship, choice or business meeting we see and archive it all away.
We see, we compartmentalise, we attach an energetic emotion or value, we store it away. In a split second. Then we try (badly) to recall it.
What we see is what we become.
Deep inside this frisky physics there are what’s known as rod and cone cells. It’s all HD and 3D and everything. The rod cells provide black and white vision and detect motion, and if that wasn’t impressive enough the cone cells send signals for colour. If there was only a ‘now think’ cell I wouldn’t be writing this.
Shining a light on things doesn’t mean the same to light as it does to us. It thinks we will do something smart with what it reveals to us. Silly light.
To be fair to our biology the retina has gangster cell layers that transmit the light signals to the optic nerve.
These guys send the information to a part of the brain that interprets the input as a visual image. Now in that visual image lies the opportunity (for what we see) to convey meaning – sadly that’s where the problem I have with light and our dysfunctional translation of it begins.
Black & White! Stop Me
Every one of our eyes has 100 million of those b/w rod like cells. And 3 million cone type ones. Scary numbers. And each one of the rods has around two thousand discs that contain a ton of molecules of a pigment called rhodopsin (part protein called opsin and part Vitamin A) which actually provides vision. This is best known as the retinal.
It’s all going on right now!
Think About It
A trillionth (not much) of a second of light changes the shape of the retinal, which in turn changes the shape of the opsin. You already knew that. Imagine if our thinking kept up with that?
All that change in the opsin triggers chemical reactions that signal to the nearby optic nerve. Sending texts, mails and sometime they do house calls. In turn this stimulates the visual cortex in the brain. So each of those countless rods and cones of a human eye contributes a tiny glimpse of a scene. Our brain then integrates into a complete visual image. Our challenge is to imbue that image with better and more valuable meaning.
During this chemistry we are left to do what we can with it.
We call that thinking. Because we have all amassed so much stuff (that we think we already know) we consequently don’t work that hard with the trillions of subtle differences in what comes in – we have grown accustomed to each scene.
Many of us have become very judgemental about life at ‘scene’ level and either stopped learning or caring too much about the myriad nuances. Perhaps because there is so much going on in the black and white bit we tend to distinguish far too much that way. Not always good.