In Sight – by Charles Wesley
In Sight – by Charles Wesley
Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? Everyone is going to believe their own senses before anything I tell them. Unfortunately our senses are deceiving us almost from the first moment of experience. While painting this new painting, I found myself considering our sense of sight and some of its deceptions.
If you want to measure something, you hold a ruler or some other measuring device right up to it to take your reading. In the same way, if you hold your little finger as close to your eyeball as you dare, you can see that your visual field is at most three or four finger widths. Normally what we would think when doing this is that our little finger is blocking our whole, vast visual field. But actually you will realize it’s true that, if you want to put an actual measurement on the visual field of one eye, it’s about an inch or inch and a half. (Think about why we never think this way if you want a deeper impression about the way our sight deceives us and why.) So all the complex and large things we see, elephants, complex patterns, trucks, subtle details, lakes, are all squeezed onto a screen that is an inch or so big, and the greater size that we attribute to it (and don’t even know we are doing so) is part of a narrative coming strictly from our mind and which we apply to the sensation. It is not in the sensations themselves.
All our seeing and all our senses are relative not absolute or ultimate. We only know the size of something in relation to the size of something else, even if sometimes it is a “standardized” measure. We might be willing to admit that we don’t really comprehend the extreme measures, like the size of stars, or galaxies, which have several billion stars, or the measurable universe, which has several billion galaxies. And similarly we might admit difficulties with smaller dimensions like atoms. But we think we have a handle on the earthly dimension. But in fact, except as a vague, indefinite idea, we don’t really understand what any kind of extension in space is. And our seeing is always partial, seeing one side of something at a time. Real seeing is more like what we might attribute to a god, for whom nothing is ever hidden, one object cannot block another, and who sees an object from all sides and who is not foiled by distances. But oddly, though we don’t have this type of seeing, what we somehow arrive at conceptually is as though we did see like this. We think we grasp objects in our world from all sides and completely.
To include my painting in this explanation, even briefly, at the place when interpretation shifts between seeing a giant red amoebic monster swallowing a living room and just an ordinary flower, at this place there is a door that leads from the relative world we ordinarily inhabit to the ultimate world. Is there a reason to take the trouble in the raging and blinding tumult and excitement of relative reality for us to search for this speck-sized door?