reality construct

POSTCARD#330: Rutnin Eye Hospital, Bangkok: I’ve had eye surgery for cataracts and there’s a protective eye shield with cotton wadding taped over my right eye, a newer version of part of the eye mechanism has just been installed; I’ve had an upgrade. But the eye has to stay covered today, so I can’t see anything, except when the nurses take off the shield and I get a brief glimpse; they give me eye-drops then it’s covered again. A great flood of liquid in the eye, slight taste in the mouth as it drains through the tear duct into the back of the throat; swallowing my tears, gulp, gulp…

They take the eye shield off the next day. I go downstairs, through the outpatients department to the exit. The décor in the waiting area is in shades of lime green and ice blue – the colours are amazing. Unexpected. Outside, there’s a completely clear perception of distance for the first time in many years. Fascinating. I’m distracted by colour and movement at the edge of vision, face turns in that direction, curiosity – an involuntary response. Head spinning like a child or a small animal, noticing all kinds of things. Sense organs filter incoming information. In my case, visual data enters through implanted intraocular lenses (IOLs). I see the world and assume it exists exactly as I perceive it, but I know the lens implant has, to some extent, created my version of the world; perception is subjective, reality is a construct in the mind. I can see a wide range of colours around me, where insects see ultraviolet, reptiles see infrared, and cats and dogs see the world in only two colours. Viewed in this way, the world is suddenly endowed with great mystery; ask any question about this reality, and it takes you to a different place entirely.

Out of the exit, into the taxi, on to the highway system and step into a world that looks like it’s been Photo-shopped, high resolution, multi-pixel display. Astonishment! If there comes a time in the future when I’m no longer able to see it in this way because the novelty of it has gone and consciousness doesn’t regard it as special anymore, then I can return here, read this post and remember how wonderful it was…

‘Normally we human beings assume the world ‘out there’ exists just as we perceive it (by way of eye, ear, nose, tongue and physical contact) but if we consider these sense organs, it must become apparent to us that the world ‘out there’ is really dependent on our particular modes of perception. For instance, the human eye limits conditions, by its very structure, the objects we see. It is well known that a bee can see, as a colour, ultraviolet but we have no idea what such a colour looks like nor, of course, can we find any words to describe it. It follows therefore that our sense organs being differently constructed from that of a bee (or any other non-human being), our world “out there” is not necessarily the world as it really is.’ [Phra Khantipalo, ‘Buddhism Explained’ 1965]

Reflections on an earlier post

21 thoughts on “reality construct

  1. Enjoy your novel ultravision. Yet as you say things all too soon return to “normal”. I remember the first time I had to have my ears syringed and walking home afterwards. Wow!!!

    • The ear example is familiar, happened to me too, long time ago. The reactions to these experiences are extreme because the system is knocked off it’s balance, there being no precedent in the filing library of mind.

      • Similarly we are surprised to meet a five-year old again at seven without seeing them in between while their parents, who see them every day, barely notice the difference.

  2. Sounds new and inspiring and a little unnerving and a lot of wonderful. Glad the surgery is behind you and glad all seems to be well. Sending healing energies to help the process along as it needs to, and hoping that what is novel, becomes marvelously every-day without diminishing any of its wonder.

  3. I can imagine how it must be like, to see sharp again after so many years.
    To me it makes me think about the freshness of not-knowing. From my own experience i know the mind always tries to immediately make sense of things. Perhaps out of fear of being confronted with the unknown. But like in your case, when the freshness is so overwhelming this habit of trying to confine things within our mostly very limited framework of reality is being overflooded and bursts open into a seemingly endless curiosity.

    Yes, indeed very good to go back to this ‘place’ of not knowing again and again!
    So thanks for sharing tiramit 🙂

    • Thanks P, it reminds me of the classic legend of how we are swept away by whatever it is that’s overwhelming, and the struggle to bring things back to how they are, is the story of the experience.

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