Eye of the Beholder

pixabay - natureworks

pixabay – natureworks

I don’t know why the science of light and color caught my attention. Perhaps it’s the fantastical element of how this intricate world works that intrigues me. The initial leap sent my imagination cartwheeling. Another perceptual shift in reality and possibility. More inspiration.

My first memory of the nature of color is the moment I learned that when we interpret something as being “red,” the object is actually all the colors except “red.” Red is the merely the wavelength of light the object reflects. This rule applies to every person and thing entering our vision – we see reflected light, not what is absorbed, not the “color” they are, not the solid objects at all.

Well, in my little pea-brain, that’s mind-blowing.

pixabay public domain pictures

pixabay public domain pictures

Waves of light are received by the unique cones and rods in our retinas and interpreted by our one-of-a-kind brains. Each eye has about 6-7 million cones that receive intense levels of light and create the sensation of color. Each eye also has about 120 million peripheral rods, which are more sensitive to dim light and transmit black and white information to the brain. This is why nightfall drains the color of the day. It’s not magic after all.

Biologically, what I see is different from what you see. Red to me is different from red to you. It’s all interpretation, perception, not of solid objects and entities but of waves of light. As I look around my living room this morning, I shift my perception, aware that I see only light beams.

It’s all light, all perception, beauty in the eye of the beholder.

So where does this science take me? Straight into fantasy, of course.

pixabaystevebidmead

pixabay – stevebidmead

When writing The Melding of Aeris, I researched the visual perception of animals. In the book, humans have developed the ability to graft animal skin, scale, horns, other stuff, and eyes to their bodies. (I know, weird, but that’s me). I learned that although humans discern a broader spectrum of colors than most mammals, many animals perceive color better than we, see sharper and farther or have vision highly attuned to movement. A variety of birds, fish and insects see the shorter wavelengths of ultraviolet light invisible to the human eye.

Well that’s cool. What else can’t we “see?”

pixabay geralt

pixabay geralt

Centuries after Newton first observed that color is not inherent in objects, our scientists experiment with bending waves of light. Since all we see is reflected light, it makes sense that if we bend it around something, we render that thing invisible. In The Bone Wall, a few characters have developed the ability to manipulate light waves. Of course, to my thinking, if we have the skill to bend light, why not waves of sound and heat as well? I travel that path without a second thought.

I’ve always liked musing about perception, chipping away at the borders of what I imagine is real. I like watching science “discover” what ancient wisdom has been teaching for thousands of years. We all experience those laughable moments when science proves a truth we already know. At the same time, I relish my eye-opening moments when science flints a spark of creativity and leaves me with the question, “What if?”

 

 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Image from wikimedia

Image from wikimedia

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
~Charles A. Dana

The Overlord’s parents decided to be truthful about the existence of Santa Claus. He’s 2 years old, mind you.

“You don’t believe in Santa?” I asked my daughter, aghast at the notion.

“We don’t want to mislead him or lie to him,” she said.

“How do you know there’s no Santa?” I asked, sensing her ambivalence. “How do you know there’s no such thing as magic?”

Her mother writes fantasy. What did she expect?

This conversation got me thinking about how little I actually “know.” I’m fairly certain I know my thoughts and feelings and perhaps a glimmer of what I perceive with my senses. But that’s about it. I drew a pie chart to demonstrate:

Pie Chart

Figure 1. Pie Chart of Ignorance

There are various things we humans agree upon and, therefore, have decided are “true.” For example, many of us believe gold is valuable when, if you think about it, it’s really just rock. Collectively, we ascribe values to all sorts of tangible items, and we conform to these “realities.” Move into the realm of thought and the tendency is no different.

What is “real” and “true” for me changes over time as I gain experience and ask the what-if and why questions that rattle around in my pea-brain. I imagine scientists also ponder imaginative possibilities. Otherwise, discoveries would only occur by accident. For scientists, theories become fact when proven. Yet how often are “truths” revised as more evidence surfaces, as our knowledge grows? All the time.

So, just because something can’t be proved using our limited senses and machinery, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because we can’t discover or measure it now, doesn’t mean we won’t in the future.

I enjoy this uncertainty. I like living with fathomless possibilities. This is where the heart of faith and spirit lies. For me, this is the realm of ghosts and angels, a sentient symbiotic planet, karma and destiny, aliens and gods. I can believe in our ability to manifest the universe through our choices, that words can change a life, that thoughts have tactile power, that love can be sent through the air like an arrow or a wave, that our understanding/categorizing/defining/ values may be flawed because we see only a minute sliver of the whole picture.

So, I’m open to the possibility of everything, to the existence of magic … and the presence of Santa Claus.

Happy Holidays.