It is through the five ‘traditional’ senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste that we make contact with our environment. When any of them are impaired, our connection with the world and with others is likewise impaired.
By far, the most important of these senses is that of sight. Research suggests that 80% of all impressions come to us through our eyes. It is our eyes that best protect us from danger and enable us to live a normal life, without much outside help.
Looking around us, we might well guess that most people have some sight impairment, but, with the wonders of modern technology, probably about 99% of us can cope through the use of glasses or spectacles.
Our eyes are amazing things. They focus automatically, seeing things clearly close at hand or in the distance. They also automatically adjust to dim or bright light, and of course with two eyes, we have stereoscopic vision, able to discern depth and distance and well as the other dimensions. Most people are able to discern colour and this of course greatly enhances our enjoyment of sight. Just think of the difference in viewing the same scene in black and white and then in colour photography.
We need to educate ourselves to see. So often we give something a mere passing glance, and a few moments afterwards, we may have forgotten what we have seen. We tend to ‘see’ what interests us, and merely glance at whatever else is in sight. If we give our full attention to what we are seeing, we are much more likely to remember, and we are more likely to see more accurately. A simple test it to read fairly quickly a piece of typing you have just completed, looking for errors in spelling or punctuation. With a quick glance, most of these would be missed, so seeing is not always a simple matter.
Sight is physical ? it is a sensory experience in which light reflects off of shapes and objects and our eyes then focus this light. Signals are sent to the brain to be converted into images. The brain then interprets these images so that we assess all manner of things, danger, tranquillity, and in people compassion, anger or indifference. So we learn to see.
Interpreting what we see might be termed discernment. We look at a face and we see more than two eyes, a nose, a mouth; or the general shape of the face, whether long and thin or round and fat. We see the contours of the face, the shape of the mouth, the lines around the eyes, and we interpret the mood of the person, whether he or she is sad or happy, worried or angry. Recognizing these differences enables us to measure our approach, whether to be soothing or stimulating, encouraging or critical.
While speaking to us, a person may smile, or frown or perhaps just stare intently at us, and each expression will tell us much about the mood or the mind of the speaker. Facial expression, along with gesture and body position, is what we call body language, and it is said that when body language contradicts what is being said, it is the body language that speaks the truth. So to a degree we might not always be aware of, sight greatly assists us in interpreting conversation.
Rev. Alan Stuart Ex missionary to Korea, Retired Minister, UCA
(02) 8876 1870