Thursday, September 09, 2010


Sometimes people look without seeing. I suspect you are doing so right now. For the quick mind, or those who see patterns where others perceive mere randomness, understanding such a concept should come easily. Two of the most enjoyable films I ever saw were The Usual Suspects (1995) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Both were littered with clues to the stories’ pivotal themes. In the former, a violent thriller, the central character, played by the Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey, relays a tissue of lies to his police interrogator. In so doing, he reveals all; but, by spinning such a complex yarn, the truth remains cleverly camouflaged in the foreground.

I think the same is true here, don’t you?

less dramatic is something I recall from my third year at university, back in the good old days of the late 1980s. A dear friend of mine – half-Indian, half-Danish – often visited my hall of residence to call on me before a lecture or seminar. Once, as I was explaining something on the way, I stopped abruptly and just stared at him.

yet I could not say why. He knew, for sure, but he was not letting on. Something or other was out of place. My bewilderment was subconscious. He knew as much, and, underneath the deadpan façade, was probably finding it quite amusing.

When we arrived at the lecture theatre, I scrutinized him for a few seconds. I had an inkling that something about him had changed. It was of a physical nature. He started laughing. By then, I knew that he knew that I had noticed. ‘What’s different?’ I asked, leaning towards him inquisitively.

young though he was – twenty or twenty-one at the time – I had always known him, over our first few years, to have a full moustache. That was it! He had shaved it off, under the orders, perhaps, of his new girlfriend.

maybe I ought to have noticed it immediately. He was a good friend whom I did, after all, see practically every day. Demonstrably, the human brain is not infallible. During real-time scenarios, the eyes see whatever they expect to see, not necessarily what is really there. Another example is a writer proof-reading his own work. He takes care, yet reads the lines, often many times, inserting words that are not actually there.

mentioned in the first paragraph were two films in which the truth was staring everyone in the face right from the beginning. Do you notice something similar here

Copyright 2010 Paul Spradbery

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