By Richard E. Bleil
Laying face down on my bed, the pillow held my right eyelid open. I didn’t feel like getting up, but I opened my left eye to look around. I see the closet door, a two-sided sliding door of the style where each side is hinged in the center and folds to open. As I look, I see the doorknobs, plain brown and fairly standard for the style.
Then the one on the left disappeared.
I knew what was happening. The back of the eyeball is thick with nerves, sensors to detect light, and for most of us three pigment type nerves to detect specific colors of light. But much like a modern television with its myriad of wires controlling the crossing light emitters on the screen, all of these nerves come together into a single bundle to transmit the data to our brain.
This is our blind spot. Every eyeball has one spot where the nerve bundles gather, negating the possibility of light sensors at that point. We’re typically unaware of this blind spot. As I stared at the door, in the location where I knew the missing doorknob to be, I was fascinated to note that the simulated wood grain was complete, running throughout the door, even through the blind spot with no discontinuities whatsoever.
This is the work of my brain. With two eyes open, the blind spot in one eye would still be visible in the other, and my brain would add the two together. The doorknob would have been visible because my brain would realize that the image from the other eye would have placed the vision of the doorknob into the picture.
But my right eye was closed. My right eye could not see the doorknob, and my left eye placed it in my blind spot, so my brain did something it does every waking moment of every day to cover up the blind spot. It simply completed the picture.
Without conscious effort, and quite easily, it simply extrapolated the wood grain pattern through the blind spot in the eye, effectively creating an optical illusion just to hide this blind spot from our own mind. It’s a form of cloaking device, created by our mind, and for our mind, to cover up the blind spot.
This got me to thinking about how many blind spots we have in our lives. I have known about the blind spot in the eye since I was a kid, so I assume it’s fairly common knowledge. Every safe driver knows about the blind spots as we are in our cars, and how to compensate for them. But, what about in our lives?
Being alive is a complicated affair. Today, one of my former students came home with his wife, child, and newborn second child, completing his family, making his house a home. Family is such a critical part of a life. I have long been estranged from my biological family, but I’ve filled in that blind spot with an extensive family of friends and loved ones I have met throughout my myriad of travels, holding them close in my heart.
Career is a big part of our life. For too may of us, myself included, it’s our career that defines us as a person. When asked what we do by a newly minted acquaintance, do we tend to respond that we are a father, that we enjoy this hobby or that, or do we respond with the title of our job? I don’t know how it is that, as a society, this is what we have become, but our careers have become the center of our identities, but it’s not healthy for us, physically or emotionally. This is where our blind spot should be, but so rarely is.
Our spouse is a part of family life, but distinctly different in the critical role they play as a partner, a confidante, and one to share our burdens in a way that nobody else in our lives will. They are also the most common blind spot for many people. How often do we tend to take our spouses for granted, those of us fortunate enough to have one, because we just assume that they will be true to their vow to be there, because they always have been there for us? How many things do our spouses do that we take for granted because they do it every day? This blind spot includes things like cooking, cleaning, repairs, yard work. How often do we simply fail to see these actions, so critical for the smooth function of a home, yet so rarely appreciated?
That’s the problem with the blind spot. Our brain tends to fill in the missing spots in our vision, but with generic blankness. The way it is filled in misses the richness and beauty that we are actually not seeing. If you’re still with me, I would urge you to take a moment to take a good look at these blind spots. In the human eye, it takes a shift in the direction of our gaze to see what is missing. To see that doorknob, all I had to do was move the focus, just a little bit, for it to come into view. Shift your view, just a little bit. Stop focusing on your work, and take a moment just to notice, maybe just for one day, to look at what your spouse does, look into what your kids are fascinated by, look into your friends to see how they are spending their free time, look into your family to see what they are working on. Shift your gaze, and clear up those blind spots. You may be amazed.