Close your eyes and see

Good morning ! Buckle up ! Today's impossible is a roller-coaster ! Alan Watts - the philosopher you heard in the movie "Her" ! - writes about how our minds ignore most of reality:

"While eyes and ears actually register and respond to both the up-beat and the down-beat of these vibrations [any phenomenon, e.g. sound or color, around you], the mind, that is to say our conscious attention, notices only the up-beat. The dark, silent, or “off” interval is ignored. (...) If you put your hand on an attractive girl’s knee and just leave it there, she may cease to notice it. But if you keep patting her knee, she will know you are very much there and interested. But she notices and, you hope, values the on more than the off. Nevertheless, the very things that we believe to exist are always on/offs. Ons alone and offs alone do not exist."

An example of negative space

An example of negative space

Despite reality's duality, at an individual level, we only notice differences and variations. At scale unfortunately, this means, as a species, we cannot feel insidious [hidden] loss. Only a present crisis wakes us up. Alun Anderson, editor in Chief of the New Scientist, writes:

"Our species might well be renamed Homo Dilatus, the procrastinating ape. Somewhere in our evolution we acquired the brain circuitry to deal with sudden crises and respond with urgent action. Steady declines and slowly developing threats are quite different. "Why act now when the future is far off" (...) Will millions of square kilometers of white ice turning to dark water feel like a crisis? (...) Then the good side of Homo dilatus may finally surface. A crisis will hopefully bring out the Bruce Willis in all of us and with luck we'll find an unexpected way to right the world before the end of the reel."

Both Watts and Anderson take aim at how much we suck at perceiving "negative space" - the residue of what we see - the man hidden in the dancing girl in the picture above. We have an imaginative mind that can help us remedy that though: Close your eyes and see - see the drowning white Antarctic bears .. and hear the sound of your neighbours' movements you've been missing !