On the periphery, to the point
A friend asked me why, when I signed in at the pool, my name extended into the line below, crowding out the next signature. I thought about it and concluded that, having read that strong lower loops in handwriting signaled healthy erotic impulses, I was just making sure I was healthy. Some things hang out at the edges without our even noticing.
Once I saw a mouse in the barn, out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was a big black rat, till I later caught the little thing in a trap. That’s common for peripheral vision, which occurs outside the very centre of gaze. It cannot detect color and often makes things appear bigger than they are. Scientists say we even sometimes substitute objects we don’t see well — like those seen in peripheral vision — with similar things from our visual memory. Out of the corner of my eye I may get barely a glimpse of a thing, so from my memory I think it’s something totally different. Like my signing in at the pool, I may see only part of what’s going on.
The most important things in life we tend to relegate to our peripheral vision: God, self-sacrifice, looking out for other people’s welfare, caring for the poor and the needy — big-item projects, pushed into the periphery.
It’s no surprise that we’ve failed to address the monumental results of global climate change, though the black rat has already started to gnaw at the barn door. Behind the scenes, though, there may be reason for optimism. Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment, and some of it seems to be paying off. There are reasons for hope, after all, just hiding at the periphery.
The war-game behaviors that attach to our Empire regalia are another obvious example of the delusions we’ve devised that we can store in the corner of the nation’s eye. Drone attacks that kill civilians, create new enemies, and arouse the development of drone warfare among dozens of other nations are pushed to the periphery of our attention — until, that is, enemies decide to turn the drones against us, as well.
The loss of peripheral vision while retaining central vision is known as tunnel vision. So we focus on what’s right in front of us and leave aside the important things. The Penn State and church pedophiles, and the administrators who enabled them, were other instances of evil behavior and of top-level officials looking the other way. Tunnel vision may be too kind a word.
The threat posed by nuclear arms, though colossal and potentially able to cause the end of civilization itself has also been mostly ignored like a mouse in the corner, which in fact is the monster it appears to be. The New Start treaty between the U.S. and Russia obliges both countries to reduce their number of deployed long-range nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 by 2018. President Obama says that the U.S. has more nuclear weapons than it needs, and he intends to cut their number from the current 1,737 to between 1,000 and 1,100. Yes, there’s hope at last.
If up until now we’ve pushed so much of our world into peripheral vision, it may be, after all, that we’re beginning to learn from jugglers, who are said to follow what they are juggling almost entirely from peripheral vision. It looks like climate change, nuclear warheads, and the perverted actions by some in sports and religion have finally gotten our attention.
Once I took the medicine Ambien to sleep. It worked very well but, in the middle of the night, I got up, messed up some stuff on my computer, and ate two doughnuts without remembering later that I’d eaten them. In our life at large, we may also have pushed some things to the sidelines, as we seek to catch up on our sleep. Maybe at last, though, we’re ready to return to what really counts. Otherwise, we could be set to lose more than just a couple of dough-nuts.
Kozeny has worked as a teacher, counselor, and in pastoral ministry. He can be reached by e-mail to email@example.com.