It’s often said that seeing is believing. But seeing alone is not the key, for we see a great deal that we fail to notice and which we therefore never believe. In fact, we regard many things as absent, lacking, or nonexistent when they’re actually forgotten, unnoticed, or actively ignored.
We stand and stare at one another across a room, looking through supposedly “thin air” that’s actually thick with life. We take for granted the light through which we see, even though it alone enables warmth, dimension, and color. And we ignore the life that swirls within that light—the mites, and the motes, and the myriad microscopic beings going about their business there. Perhaps we marveled at these once, when we saw them as children, dancing in the sunbeams between the curtains above our beds, but we have long-since forgotten them now.
We describe this same room as “silent,” but only because we ignore the songs of birds that seep through its windows and walls, along with the chirping of the summer cicadas and the burbling of the stream out back. We discover these sounds the moment we stop to listen for them—the moment, that is, we cease to believe in the “silence” we’ve otherwise wrapped ourselves in.
Our minds insist upon emptiness even where the world around us is filled with light and color and sound and smells and flavors—and even as we continually, mysteriously, draw in the air around us and convert it to breath.
Here’s a miracle worth considering: Our minds conspire to find nothingness in the very air that feeds the blood that keeps our brains building new ideas, including the idea of nothingness! It’s a miracle of continuous misapprehension, but no less miraculous for that.
We all know (or should) that we are limited by the extent of our senses. We forget that we are also limited by the failure to open our minds—and to re-open them again and again and again. If we see little, we notice even less, and we actively consider only a fraction of what we notice. Yet nearly all of us treat that mere fraction of a fraction of a fraction as if it were the be all and end all of reality. We mistake the tales we tell ourselves for Truth when they’re creative nonfiction at best. Then we tell ourselves that “seeing is believing” without bothering to notice just how often our beliefs preexist—and preclude—what we see.
We forget that we need to keep looking, keep listening, keep questioning, and always assume that no single account of reality will ever be complete. The world is far too complex, creative, and continually adaptive for that. Our job is not to capture and contain it. Our job is just to keep up as best we can.