How do we humans make sense of the world? It depends on how we see the world.
As a documentary filmmaker, I was trained to look for the telling image to communicate a story. In covering Liberia or Abu Dhabi, Cuba or Northern Ireland, I had to look through other people’s eyes to learn how they saw the world. I practiced having new eyes, open to take in the unfamiliar, discovering cues to their worldview. While histories give us facts, images have the power to reach a deeper truth.
How we see is much broader than the picture in front of our eyes. We organize and orient by a mental map. We imagine inventions and novels before they come to life. Thirty percent of our brain is devoted to visual processing, the largest single function. Our time can be described as the Age of the Eye. Information comes from digital screens, virtual reality, and simultaneous uploads from opposite sides of the globe, or images from space and quantum levels showing us worlds never seen before.
My goal for this blog is to help build an awareness of our lens, to enlarge it, to multiply our points of view. Perspectives will be a recurring theme—how the way we see influences the way we think. Understanding that the Big Dipper was perceived as a Great Bear to Native Americans and what this meant. Exploring how different American Presidents have seen the world through the literal landscape of their childhood. Recognizing that one culture’s idea of justice can take the form of retribution, while in another it can come as reconciliation.
One way to watch these perspectives change is to follow how shapes shift. Shape cues us to a mindset. It frames our mental map. When shapes change, this signals a new way of living and a new way of thinking has entered. The literal shape of shelters, social systems, and sacred sites reveals the way the world is seen by those who live near and within them. The round thatched huts and stone circles of tribal humans tell us they saw the world as a circular web. Pyramids and church steeples tell us urban humans saw the world as a ladder, organized by hierarchy and measurement. Today, networks are the map for everything, full of links and reverberations. Our daily lives rely on the Internet. We impose the network format on biology, seeing neurons in our brain or bacteria colonizing as network formats. Hyperlink thinking is the habit of the current generation, not linear logic. These shape-shifting mental maps are the theme of a book I have written. Ideas from this book will cross-fertilize with blog themes.
A related theme this blog will explore is the idea of webs and ladders as visual expressions of hero and heroine solutions. I’ve long been fascinated by how problems are solved differently in heroine myths than in hero tales. A hero slays the dragon, which requires strength and presumes confrontation. In Psyche’s tale, her task is to dip into the river of life, which she resolves by cooperation and a relationship to nature with the help of an eagle. These ways of thinking need not be gender specific; they are solutions that can be applied by everyone. Alternative approaches are the things I’ve been musing about and will expand on here.
Also, I will write about my travels from time to time. Soon I will visit the Buddhist caves in Dunhuang, China. They lie along the Silk Road. The history of the Silk Road includes human nature at its best and worst. Its story includes spirituality and art, traders and travelers, thieves and conquerors.
This will not be a linear, one-purpose blog. I confess to a wandering mind. The root of the word ‘traveling’ actually means ‘to stretch’. So come along with me as we wander through ideas—seeing the world, seeing our time, seeing how we see.