Frog Reality

by rthieme on March 14, 1998

Since long before the computer revolution, too much data has streamed into our lives. We perceive much more than we “see.”

The French philosopher, Henri Bergson, suggested that the brain might be  a filter that screened out nearly all reality so we could pay attention to the mundane tasks of daily life.

One definition of religious or mystical experience is that suddenly flung-open doorways of perception allow all that data and daylight to come in.

A researcher connected the optic nerves of a frog to a monitor that enabled him to see what frogs see. He discovered that frogs see: (1) tiny specks close to their eyes, such as flies; (2) broad contrasting areas of light, such as the pond underneath a daylight sky, enabling the frog to jump into the water; (3) sudden changes in light, such as the shadow of a hawk swooping down.

A frog sees what it needs to see in order to eat, avoid being eaten, and make it home at night.

Most of live most of our lives at the level of “frog reality.”

Sitting at the monitor, focused on the words on the screen, we are preoccupied with mundane tasks. Meeting deadlines, cranking out code, we are like miners with a small light on our hard hats, crawling through a tunnel in the vast dark mountain of reality. What we don’t know is so much greater than we are.

Our descriptions of reality are all true but true at different degrees of precision. We feel our way blindly through the maze until — suddenly — the doorways of perception are cleansed and we find ourselves in a midnight garden, “the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

Nodes of a network, individuals interlaced with their glowing monitors, luminous leaves of a single tree.

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