Seeing is Believing or NOT

Three separate incidents of Seeing or NOT:

#1. One day last week I stepped out of my house, my little dog on her leash, ready for our morning walk.

Facing east (I take the same route every day) on Borderlands Drive I suddenly see a tall gray electric tower shaped like a skinny monster insect with 3 sets of stick legs looming above the tree line behind the roof tops on the next block. What the F? I think aloud. I don’t remember seeing that before, which is pretty disconcerting since we have lived here for a year and half. I walk my dog down this street almost every day. I know this tower is not new, it wasn’t just erected yesterday. Yet it is new to me.

#2. One time I lost my keys. I look in the place where they always go. Not there. I go to my car. No keys. My purse. Nadda. And so the hunt begins. Back to the car. Empty the purse. Hands digging down into the sofa and the recliner. Round and round I go; this corner, that table, the junk drawer, upstairs, down, pockets of clothes I wore two days ago, 3rd trip to the car. Finally, I sit down in defeat. My, husband who has been watching me, thinks I’m nuts. “We can order a new set of keys,” he consoles. So he gets on his phone, and looks up ordering a new key fob for a Honda. “Wooo! Expensive,” he says. I tell him to hold off. “They have to be here. I just drove the car yesterday. They’ll show up.” And they do. Later that evening. I walk past the corner table and there are my keys. Just laying there. Like they have been there for 3 days. I grab them up in jubilation. “I found them. I got my keys!” But I am confused. I looked there. The first place I looked. Didn’t I? I went by that table 2, 3 maybe 4 times, looking? I’m no longer sure. Can I trust my own eyes? Did the keys vanish then reappear after several hours? All I can say is WTF?

top: Silver Maple
bottom: Boxelder

#3. In 1995 we bought a house in rural Ohio. In the front yard was a young sapling, recently planted. It was a Silver Maple, just like the one that grew in my childhood back yard into a towering beauty that gave us shade in the summer, helicopters in spring and a mountain of leaves to dive in each fall. One day in 2007 we had some of our friends over for a cookout. One was our neighbor Scott, an agricultural biologist who worked for a local lab. As he was walking down our driveway (he and his wife lived next door) he pointed to the tree and asked “What kind of tree is that?” I replied a Silver Maple. He said he didn’t think so. As I turned to go inside, he walked over to the tree and began to examine its leaves.  He plucked a few and said he’d look them up. I had forgotten about our conversation when a few weeks later after church he came up to me and announced “That tree in front of your house is a Boxelder.” I said, “Really?” a little confused. I was positive it was a Silver Maple. Scott briefly explained the difference between the two trees. As I already knew Silver Maples are tall and narrow and their crown is usually pyramid shaped. The underside of their narrow three-pronged leaves are much lighter, thus the name. A Boxelder is also of the maple family, but its crown is bushier, spread out more, and the leaves are pear shaped, three to a stem and are darker hued. When I got back home, I was amazed. The tree looked so different now. I walked over to it. The leaves, the shape, the girth, had all changed. No silver back on the leaves. I felt very confused and spooked, even a little strange. I tried explaining my experience to my husband, but he dismissed me as crazy. Of course, I know the tree did not suddenly change. It had always been what it was now “observed” to be, what it had been since the first green shoot poked out of the seed pod, a Boxelder.

Police and trial lawyers know well that eye witness testimony can be suspect. Three witnesses may see the same vehicle in three different colors. Mostly red, black or silver, the most popular auto colors. And of course, we all know that family members will have totally different stories based on the same past event. Yet, we all believe what we see, never doubting our own eyes, even when challenged by another set.

But what exactly is seeing? When we see something, our eyes are taking in patterns of light waves and sending them to our brain. There in the command center the brain will try to form an image of what it just received, using past images and memories to form and imprint the image. If it cannot find anything existing to pair up this new data it may create a whole new image or ignore it all together. Everything we think we see is really just a construct in our brain. My brain ignored the electric tower until one day it decided to process the pattern. And for whatever reason, my brain wanted to fuck with me and ignore the pattern that was my keys. As for the Maple tree, my brain decided the tree was a Silver Maple based on my memories, and then never revisited this image until it was challenged by the observation of another entity.

These three stories are examples of Quantum physics 101. The wave functions of particles collapse upon observation by a sentiment being. Until the collapse, caused by Scott’s scientific identification, the tree could have been both a Silver Maple and a Boxelder, or neither. Like Schrodinger’s cat; both, alive and dead at the same time, until it is observed. Although the electric tower was already there, as were my set of keys, I did not observe either of them, so therefore the wave functions had not collapsed for me. Yet. The messages were sent by my eyes to my brain for both objects. But my brain did not complete the circuit. What should have been translated as keys, or the Electric tower, never happened.

To sum up, maybe we should be more tolerant and be aware that just because others do not see what we see, does not mean they are lying or crazy. They just have a different brain with which to process what is before them.

Addendum, Regarding the invisible electric tower: Yesterday on my morning walk, I stopped and was talking to a lady I see often with her dog, Simba. She lives less than a block away from said tower. I asked her how long it had been there, pointing to the structure rising above the tree line across the street. She replied, “Oh! I’m not sure.” She was not ready to answer. So I told her I had just noticed it a few weeks ago, but don’t remember it being erected. So now she replied, “It might be new. They’re always doing work down there,” referring to the woods behind the last street in our community. So I left her with this new information, and began thinking that maybe I wasn’t blind or crazy, that the tower was fairly new. As I was continuing on my walk, heading toward the last street where the tower loomed, I saw a lady come out of her front door. So I approached her.
ME: “Good morning.”
LADY: “Hello.”
ME: “Can I ask you a question?”
LADY: “Sure.”
ME: “How long has that tower been there?” (pointing to the edifice)
LADY: “OH, It’s been there as long as I’ve lived here. And I’ve been here over three years. It’s the only thing I hate about the view from our balcony.”
ME: “Really!” I was surprised by her answer. “I’ve been here over a year and I just noticed it a few weeks ago. Funny, huh?”

And so I now had more info to mull over. I realize that these two conversations only serve to prove my point. Seeing or NOT Seeing does not necessarily have to be Believing.

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