Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Thinking in Pictures

I'm not entirely sure when it originated, or if it's the way other people experience life, but I tend to view the world through a lens.  I process concepts visually, and am constantly going through life through a visual filter.  I see visual patterns in the world, and am always layering some mood into my current experience.

Not too long ago I saw somewhere online the debate over some humans not having an inner dialogue, or rather, they couldn't hear themselves talking in their heads, still others couldn't conjure up images in their heads.  If you said, imagine a beach and a palm tree, some people will envision a specific image of a palm tree in their heads, perhaps from a prior experience or an image they'd seen before, but nonetheless, an actual image of a palm tree comes to mind, and they could describe it.  Others could not, unless they actually went and found an image of a palm tree. I wonder how this plays into different people being able to see 'a vision', like when someone can imagine how a new house would look if it was painted another color, and their partner can't "see it" until it's done.

I wonder if there's some sort of cognitive difference in humans that enables this or hinders it, and I wonder how it affects the ways we interact in the world and with each other.

I've always had a visual mind.  When I was a kid, someone might tell me to draw a bunny.  I could envision all the parts of the bunny in my mind — the ears, the tail, the wiggly little nose, and I could make that appear on paper with a few lines.  My mother would remark that she didn't know how I could just do that without seeing the bunny in front of me.

When it comes to the inner dialogue question, I wondered if I talked to myself in my head or not.  I concluded that I do, but I also rely heavily on the visual side of things for communication with myself.  If I start to think to myself, "what should I eat for lunch?",  I may quickly ask myself that question, but to come up with the answer I have to mentally picture each of the different food options available and if they will be an apt answer to my inquiry.  I'll visualize the plate with the tamales on it, me eating them with a fork, the sour cream on the side — I'll mentally experience that whole scenario before deciding to choose it.

And it becomes a which came first, the chicken or the egg situation when I think about the way I interact with the world now.  If I'm on a walk along the lakeshore I will think in visual frames, for example, this set of trees would frame an image nicely, etc.  I have to imagine most people probably aren't acutely aware of the 100s of different visual patterns like this they pass by in a day.  I start to wonder, when did this start?  Did I start doing this because I am a photographer and I'm looking for moments to capture, or did I become a photographer because I was compelled to capture all these little moments?

Regardless, for almost as long as I can remember, I've sought to frame my life experiences in ways that could be tied up and reflected upon, like a story or a movie.  I might look back on a time with a certain mood or emotion attached to it, and I have very distinct memories where I put myself in the third person and just have a picture of myself in my mind: walking down the sidewalk as the storm clouds gather overhead, clapping with foreboding rumbles.   A deep twang of beauty and fear and awe accompany this memory — it is melancholy to me, but also a feeling of love in an unexplained way.  

All this is to say:  I think in pictures.  At any given moment, my brain might be drawing up some new visual arrangement of light and color, of worlds that only exist in my imagination.  We're driving to the DMV to get our licenses renewed and pass a highway onramp... my mind wanders into the fresh swath of wildflowers exploding in color in a completely inaccessible patch of earth surrounded by highway.  And I imagine what they might smell like, what shapes their shadows will cast come the final hours of daylight this evening, and imagine fingers running through them and soft acoustic strings being plucked in the summer breeze.  I daydream in moods, you see.

And more than anything I want to reconstruct them and share them in any way I can.  Because they bring me peace and solace in an otherwise overwhelming and hard to deal with world.  And because I can't turn them off, even if I wanted to.  It is my inclination to romanticize the mundane, and I search for the exquisite in our world and under our noses.  It's things right in front of us, that we have to open our eyes to to truly appreciate.   Fairytales have always been running through my head — and I'm just now learning how to translate them into something shareable.

Until Next Time, 

— The Lovely Red Fox

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