Optical illusions are amazing. I feel like a kid when I find something that scrambles my brain the way mind tricks do. I would like to share with you how one particular illusion altered my life, and how that illusion opened my eyes to a reality I had never realized was there before.
Falling asleep at night can be a challenge because the left hemisphere of my brain is always in overdrive. This is the part of your brain that contains that little voice we’re all familiar with. Mine loves to talk. When it speaks it is decisive and calculating. It explains the logistics to a problem, connects the thoughts and ideas together, and illustrates beautiful solutions to overwhelming complexities. When I am physically exhausted from the activity of the left brain I surrender myself to the right brain; the spiritual, the colourful, the creative. I drift into sleep where suddenly I am expansive. I am not confined to my body but can move freely about space. And as I move through space I conclude that I would prefer to be somewhere rather than everywhere, and so now i am standing in a place crafted purely out of the spontaneous nature of my Mind. I can feel cool earth under my feet. The acres in front of me expand overwhelmingly. The universe I am in does not have walls but is as expansive as I am. The lush grass has a smell that only Spring can bring. The warm breeze ruffles my hair and I feel at home, and peaceful. Colours are vibrant here.
I am dreaming.
The optical illusion I viewed a few weeks ago contained a photograph. The photograph was coloured quasi monochromatically in sections. In the centre of the picture appeared a black dot. The spectator stares at the dot for 30 seconds unblinkingly. When the timer expires the picture comes out of it’s monochromatic state and can be viewed in full colour. The moment your gaze breaks from the central fixation point (the dot) it’s clear that the picture is, in fact, not coloured at all but is black and white. It is colourless. When I saw this I was gobsmacked. Something I had seen had not existed at all but was merely a prank my mind had fallen for. The colour didn’t exist.
Although a large part of me accepted that what I had witnessed was a simple optical illusion, a greater part of my being resisted to accept that what it had been put through was false. A sense of urgency had been born, and I needed to discover why I felt this way. With the help from my left hemisphere I began to make connections between the insurgence of thoughts and ideas that had invaded my mind about this experience. In a wave of clarity I landed on both my feet with new knowledge. The answer I was looking for was experience. Moments of new understanding that allow for better, stronger, clearer connections between ideas. My expectations for reality were completely satisfied while viewing the black and white photograph in colour. It wasn’t until I realized that my reality was false that I felt offended and fooled. This is a common feeling after waking up from a dream, for in the dream you don’t always realize that you’re asleep. For this reason your dream world is your reality, and until you wake you convince yourself that what you’re seeing is the truth. I had done no differently with the illusion.
The question is, “So what?” Let’s come back to the cool dirt on my feet, and the lush springtime environment of my dream. So long as I’m asleep, my reality is within this new universe. I am still existing, experiencing and interacting with the world inside my mind. The fact that it isn’t apart of your reality (that’s you, the reader’s reality) doesn’t make it any less real or significant. It is here, it is where I am, and anything that is important to me exists in this same realm. When I wake I might feel confused, fooled, or anxious that the experiences I had just undergone happened in a non-physical world, and that it seemingly came out of nothingness and operated in expansive unending space. But if I take something from that non-physical space and bring it into the physical world I live in now, how can anyone argue that where I was wasn’t real and what I saw didn’t happen? Every experience can contribute to the overall composition of our knowledge, whether it physically manifests itself in this world or another.
I saw colour where none existed, but because I experienced it the colour became part of my reality. Now I cannot help but look at the world and see one side of a many sided surface. Like the photograph, it is highly likely that what I perceive to be true is merely an illusion of the brain; an interpretation of what I think I know, or want to see. However, there is no doubt in my mind that it is happening. It may not be accurate, but it is truth. This is real.