see the light

Last night, while my husband was happily snoring away, I was quietly stumbling around in the dark. Or maybe not so quietly. And like the dork I am, it made me think of psychology. (But that’s nothing new. Everything makes me think of psychology.)

Psychology lesson for the day (from the chapter on Sensory Perception): photoreceptors. In those lovely eyeballs of yours, you’ve got photoreceptors, a special kind of neuron that lets you see light. There are primarily two kinds: rods and cones. Rods allow you to see dim light, and they’re found throughout your retina, except in the very center. The center is packed with cones, which respond to brighter light and allow the greatest visual acuity.

As great as those cones are, they’re not so useful in the dark. Rods, however, are great at picking up the tiniest bit of light. But since they’re not found in the center of your retinas, it’s actually easier to see in the dark if you look away from that tiny spot of light.

It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. If you want to see something, look at it. No brainer. But the darkness changes things. If it can turn pieces of furniture into monsters and shift those random objects right into your path, it should be no surprise that it changes the way you see. No matter how hard you try to use those cones in the dark, it’s just not gonna work out. But shift your eyes away, and you give your rods a chance. Suddenly that hint of light becomes a bit brighter.

Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes you find yourself in a dark place, staring at that thing you so desperately want to see. You think if you focus hard enough, if you stare long enough, it’ll appear.

Look away.

Shift your eyes away, and you’ll see things differently. Don’t pile all your hope on that thing that you’re sure you’ll see eventually as you wait in the darkness. Look away, and your dark world will change. Look away and you’ll see the light. And you may even find a whole new perspective.

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