Vision: Anita’s Story
by Alan Brody
I wonder how vision and emotion intertwine in the infant child, in those early days before its eyes have focused. Many times I watched my own children gazing into the face of their mother as they suckled, pondering the miracle of love that radiated over them through her every pore, and that flowed into them from the milk of her breast. Is that infant’s serious gaze seeking to fix for those sensuous feelings a visual meaning, through eyes that could see as yet only the most impressionist of blurs of light and color?
In time those eyes gain strength. Miracles of cells, neurons and synapses, of chemicals and their receptors, begin to dilate pupils to control the entry of light, and curve the retinas to bend rays into a willed focus, imposing meaning and then control on life perceived.
In the beginning what children see must be all a jumble. How much of the motion observed of leaves responding to wind goes into memory? When all is new, all must be stored away in its raw form, waiting to be distilled into meaning. But at some point a pattern is observed or imposed. Once that process begins, how long does it take before the child’s eyes and brain stop looking, imagining and storing, and instead begin scanning, categorizing, and dismissing? At what point does the sound of a didactic voice, “it’s the wind,” replace the wonder of vision that truly sees all that infinite variation of light, shadow, and movement, or all those bursting colors of the woods I see outside my window on this autumn morning of my life?
At what point I wonder does a child cede his sensuous, lived experience to the accumulated wisdom and will of others? There comes a time in life when we look at everything in sharp focus, and we can hardly feel any more the full beauty of flowers, for all the looking in complex wonder at an ecology of stems and blossoms, petals, stamens, pistils, and the bees and ladybugs that alight on them.