Consciousness is Only Possible Through Change

The Art of Seeing by Aldous Huxley, written in 1942, is a book about an alternative way of correcting vision impairment through odd movement meditations developed by William Bates. This method has been proven ineffective except for a few subjective cases (including Huxley himself), but the exercises employed in this alternative method bring up interesting concepts about visual perception.

I was reading the book earlier this summer, and it got me thinking about a myriad of topics, such as the history and use of eyeglasses, the difference between sensing and perceiving, meditational movements that are psychologically beneficial even if not physically, and afterimages (i.e. when you stare at the sun too long, and then when you look away you see spots).

We’ll see if any of these ideas appear in my future work; what made me think about The Art of Seeing was a short passage early on in the book.

I sat down to write about the positives and negatives of moving to a new place, and the following quote popped into my head. Huxley quotes The Psychology of Attention by Théodule Ribot:

“Without motor elements perception is impossible. If the eye be kept fixed upon a given object without moving, perception after a while grows dim, and then disappears. Rest the tips of the fingers upon a table without pressing, and the contact at the end of a few minutes will no longer be felt. But a motion of the eye or of the finger, be it ever so slight, will re-arouse perception. Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement...Where there is no movement, there is no perception.”

Although Ribot gives the example of perception as simply looking at an object or resting your fingers on a table, one can use this example as a metaphor for something much broader and deeper. Without movement, without change, perception is stagnant.

When you drive the same route everyday, watch the same TV show every week, drink the same beer every night, go to the same grocery store every month, you grow numb; there's nothing new to ‘re-arouse perception’. Getting away from what you know, are used to, or comfortable with, has the ability to open your perception.

Movement and change in a routine, whether it be a daily or lifelong routine, is powerful; it can also be difficult and provoke negative emotions like anxiety and fear. My recent life-change was met with having to pack up all my belongings into a 6’ x 12’ trailer, a cockroach infested apartment, and 82% humidity. However I now have a whole new vibrant city to explore, creative and beautiful people to get to know, and a new studio to develop my art practice in. The good would not be as powerfully wonderful if there weren’t the tears and frustration.

I'm not saying routine is all bad; ritual and routine can be positive and healing, especially sometimes when everything else in the world seems chaotic and f****d up. I simply encourage a questioning of routines, and the welcoming of new experiences. 

I am a creature of trying to break habit. I get restless easy and desire new experiences to energize my senses. In my life at the moment I am trying to embrace all this newness, reminding myself that the bad is only temporary, and focus on soaking up all of the good. Grateful for this opportunity to stimulate my perception, I am going to continue moving and changing day-to-day within the larger move I have just made.

 Image from  The Art of Seeing

Image from The Art of Seeing