WHAT REACHES MY EYE

At its briefest and plainest, his tale of how I see you runs something like this. Light leaves the sun, and eight minutes later gets to your body, which absorbs part of it. The rest bounces off in all directions, and some of it reaches my eye, passing through the lens and forming an inverted picture of you on the screen at the back of my eyeball.

This picture sets up chemical changes in a light-sensitive substance there, and these changes disturb the cells (they are tiny living creatures) of which the screen is built. They pass on their agitation to other, very elongated cells; and these, in turn, to cells in a certain region of my brain.

It is only when this terminus is reached, and the molecules and atoms and particles of these brain-cells are affected, that I see you or anything else. And the same is true of the other senses; I neither see nor hear nor smell nor taste nor feel anything at all until the converging stimuli actually arrive, after the most drastic changes and delays, at this centre. It is only at this terminus, this moment and place of all arrivals at the Grand Central Station of my Here-Now, that the whole traffic system – what I call my universe – springs into existence.

For me, this is the time and place of all creation.

“There are many odd things, infinitely remote from common-sense, about this plain tale of science. And the oddest of them is that the tale’s conclusion cancels out the rest of it.

For it says that all I can know is what is going on here and now, at this brain terminal, where my world is miraculously created.

I have no way of finding out what is going on elsewhere – in the other regions of my head, in my eyes, in the outside world – if, indeed, there is an elsewhere, an outside world at all.

The sober truth is that my body, and your body, and everything else on Earth, and the Universe itself – as they might exist out there in themselves and in their own space, independently of me – are mere figments, not worth a second thought. There neither is nor can be any evidence for two parallel worlds (an unknown outer or physical world there, plus a known inner or mental world here which mysteriously duplicates it) but only for this one world which is always before me, and in which I can find no division into mind and matter, inside and outside, soul and body.

It is what it’s observed to be, no more and no less, and it’s the explosion of this centre – this terminal spot where “I” or “my consciousness” is supposed to be located – an explosion powerful enough to fill out and become this boundless scene that’s now before me, that is me.

“In brief, the story of perception, so far from contradicting my naïve story, only confirms it. Provisionally and common-sensibly, he put a head here on my shoulders, but it was soon ousted by the universe. The common-sense or unparadoxical view of myself as an “ordinary man with a head” doesn’t work at all; as soon as I examine it with any care, it turns out to be nonsense.”

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