Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peripheral Vision

Helleborus, the first flower to bloom at my place every Spring.

I saw a strange sight the other day. Driving along, I had to slow down for a squirrel in the middle of the road. Somehow he had managed to poke its head through the bottom of a Styrofoam cup. In doing so, it had unwittingly shut out the visual input from every direction except straight ahead. Loss of peripheral vision had created a dangerous paralysis, despite perfect vision straight ahead. I slowed my car as I went around him, and as I traveled on down the road I could still see him in my rearview, paralyzed and trembling.

Only a very tiny area of the retina, the fovea (where "cones" are concentrated), deals with crisp resolution and focus. The vast majority of the retina is comprised of predominantly "rods" which are 1000 times more sensitive to light than cones and therefore are much better motion detectors. This explains why we are quick to see movement in our peripheral vision. Deer hunters know this. So do deer.

Much is said about focus, I suppose as should be. Scripture is chock full of reminders to "fix our gaze" and to "keep our eyes on the prize." A lot of books about business and about the Christian life deal a lot with foveal, cone-dominant, central-vision issues: focus, purpose, core-values, etc.

But is it possible that, in a world full of human need, God might have created our peripheral vision for a purpose? And might it be possible for us to focus too much on focus, while ignoring the needs off to the periphery of our comfortable, familiar, and safe lives?

Funny how a squirrel and a styrofoam cup can give me a headache.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you save the squirrel?? I