Monday, September 8, 2008


I am always surprised at what selective vision we have.

The most obvious examples are done with a camera. We pose a friend in a desert setting and when the film is developed, a cactus appears to be growing out of her head. We take a candid shot of people picnicking and fail to see the behind of a bending woman in the lower left side of our visual field. Or we see a beautiful sunset and shoot what we think will be the world’s most gorgeous photograph, but the finished print shows telephone wires running horizontally across the beautiful view, wires that we didn‘t notice when we framed our shot.

I’m sure professional photographers are trained to be so aware of these extraneous intrusions that it rarely happens to them. Perhaps that is why it takes them longer to take a photograph. We amateurs are usually not aware of anything except what we are focusing on. And we often end up with big surprise.

Secretaries are very aware of a different kind of selective vision. We type something and then proofread it. And we are the very worst possible proofreaders of our own work, for we see what we expect to be there. We may have tried to write “in the manner” and our fingers came out with “on the matter.” Our eye will likely as not miss the mistake completely, because more times than we would like to admit, we see what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. This tendency is so pervasive we often ask someone else to help us proof the paper, or barring that, with another paper we mask out the body of the letter except for the line we are reading, to force ourselves to really look at the words.

The most critical kind of selective vision is the way we see our children. I am reminded of the old joke about the woman who puts her new baby in a stroller and goes outside for a walk. While she is gazing down admiringly at him, a man comes out of a market, looks down at the baby and asks, “Can I give your little monkey a banana?” I have seen other people’s homely babies and always do what my mother told me was the correct response if I didn’t want to tell a white lie: “Now THAT is a baby!”

I have had four children, all of whom were adorable when they were born, and even more so as they grew and developed their own unique mannerisms and personalities, I thought they each were adorable. Their baby books visually chronicle their development and if at any stage there was something not so attractive about one of them, I could usually attribute it to it not being a good picture -- one taken by a school photographer, most likely.

I never stopped to wonder why I seemed to be the only one who got really cute babies. I looked at my friends’ newborns and some of them were down right homely, although of course I would never tell the moms that. Furthermore, their less-than-beautiful babies kind of stayed that way as they grew through toddler-hood and on into school, while mine seemed still look like “magazine” babies – always my standard of totally adorable offspring.

So it is that I have come to understand that we look at our children through selective vision. Whatever mother love is, it surrounds our babies and makes them look to us as perfect as a mother could want. And even if we have a wee suspicion that one baby’s nose might be a little big, or another one’s ears might need “pinning”, we don’t need to be rational and critique their parts. The sum total of that baby is perfection, and Mother Nature gives us selective vision to see it that way.

We may not be good photographers or proofreaders, but those things don’t count for much in the scheme of things. Mother Nature knows what she is doing when she gives us selective vision.

My children (above) the exception, of course. They are ALL adorable and absolutely perfect!

No comments: