Where the eyes go, the mind follows.

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Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

I was reading a writing prompt, that asks writers to write about a spiritual or intellectual conflict they’ve either gone through or still exists in their lives. That’s all fine, however, that is not how I read it the first time through. I read “ineffectual” instead of “intellectual.” Confused, I re-read the prompt, this time correctly.

But the idea of an “ineffectual conflict” tickled me. What is that? A conflict that doesn’t really bother you because it’s so slight that an outcome doesn’t even matter? Or maybe, it’s a conflict where there is no clear or good resolution, and it goes on forever and ever (sort of a Middle East kind of a deal)? Does the toilet paper roll go over or under? Either way, it’s just not a thing.

Sometimes I read too fast, and my brain substitutes words that are wrong instead of a correct word. That’s when a public restroom becomes a pubic one. And working lunch transforms into twerking lunch. Sometimes, not being a native speaker of English, I get the letter “b” confused by the letter “g” — but that usually happens when I write, not when I read. The point I am trying to make here, is that my mind is not reliable. Or rather, my eyes are not reliable messengers to my brain — they lie to me frequently, and I go on autopilot. That is why I am fascinated with both optical illusions and prestidigitation — otherwise known as “magic.”

My eyes subscribe to Occam’s Razor — the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. If the circle is not complete, my mind will complete it with information that makes sense. That is a shortcut that would allow my mind to be tricked — really, all our minds have a mind of their own.

I love the magician duo of Penn and Teller. I have read (and loved) Penn Jillet’s book “Every Day is the Atheist’s Holiday,” and since then have been lucky to have seen their show twice (I have only been to Las Vegas twice, that’s why). This was a choice — there is a great deal to do in Vegas, but I care not a whit for any of it. I am not a gambler, and everything is so damn noisy and expensive. But going to see the Penn & Teller show when in Vegas is non-negotiable deal for me.

There is one trick that Teller does that blows me away every time (I’ve seen it live and I’ve seen it on TV). Teller goes through this one routine, then he goes through it again, slowly, as Penn narrates it and explains exactly what Teller is doing, exposing every illusion — and still my mind is fooled into NOT seeing things as they are but rather as Teller wants me to see them. It’s disturbing and wonderful, this part of human nature.

Is it possible that we want to be deceived? Sure, sometimes. Like a great deal of people, I, too, like an easy way. Why climb a mountain when you can just walk around it? On the other hand, for babies, a warm, wet diaper is only comfortable for a very short while, then it’s time for change. There are things that are needed to be learned, and, as Mark Twain once said, “There are things you can only learn by swinging a cat around by its tail that you cannot learn any other way.”

Speaking of the mind filling in huge gaps and blank spaces of information, you may be wondering what all of that has to do with the mating habits of Siberian weasels. The answer is, I have no idea what it has to do with that topic. I would argue with you about the nature of Siberian weasels, but it would be an ineffectual conflict.

I had not intended to write about illusion, or my need for it. I had only set out to write that I do not trust my own mind a great deal of the time. And sometimes our brains lead us to places that we did not intend to go. I suppose that’s all right. After all, we should remember, “No matter where you go, there you are.” (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension)

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Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.

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