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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, September 17, 2012

Motion vs. rest

Why is the eye drawn so immediately to anything that moves? Is there something anatomical or physiological about its make-up that forces attention? Any ophthalmologists out there who care to weigh in?

Where I rest and watch, birds are the obvious provocateurs. Gulls and crows add noise to their movements; the three loons I see this morning move, but placidly, along the water. But waves demand attention too, and reward you with a crash on the shore, and the sailboat out in the channel moves quietly like a loon, and the monarch butterflies flutter about disjointedly, looking for nectar to sustain their migration to Mexico. Yesterday afternoon I watched a robin for ten minutes, and it just stood motionless on the lawn newly mowed. I don't ask why, but that feeling built, you know the one, the one that begs you to rap on the glass at the zoo, or flick a dragonfly, or gesticulate at a robin, demanding motion from something that was built to move. If it doesn't move, it might be dead and that would be inconvenient, might even make you think.

Movement is demanded to seek food and shelter, or for the pure joy of itself, like goldfinches chasing each other in the newly-bright morning, or a hike up Bald Rock. For anything else, does the eye betray us? Does it lead us to ambition, or greed, or movement for its own sake, like a treadmill or a TV screen, sans joy? At the most basic level, I presume that the eye is meant to warn. But for humans, so many of our dangers today are invisible, and maybe we can discover them best at rest, with patience, with the help of others. Sight is a wonderful thing. Second sight is even better. We were built for both, I trust.

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