thinking with pictures

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seeing the forest instead of the trees

The expression about fixating on immediate details (the trees) and being unaware or blind to the wider picture (the forest) is a familiar one to many people. Another one with more urgent meaning is “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” (worrying about tidy appearances while the ship is sinking). Looking out the window, below, one can see how the point of focus alters the viewing experience. By fixating on the screen and its delicate detail, the wider or deeper view is lost. This is not just a photographer’s problem about selecting a desired Depth-of-Field, but a life problem: there is the point about obsessing about detail at the expense of other experience and vision, of course. But from an anthropological perspective, too, everyone has a filter or screen to make sense of past experience, present S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, perceived threats), and future horizons. To the degree that these screens preoccupy one’s mind and heart, then the wider reality in the distance is lost. It is necessary to live with mental (cultural and linguistic and material cultural/world view) screens. But by being self-aware of them, or by speaking more than one language, culture, religion, etc, then one is more readily receptive of the bigger picture; one that goes past the foregrounding filter we see.

your vision often is screened and distracted

your vision often is screened and distracted