Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keys, clues, and seeing the invisible

Jimmy talking about “breakfast for dinner” got me thinking about Green Eggs and Ham. Why that so stuck in my mind sitting at the Jazz Bakery wasn’t quite so clear to me . . . .

Last week I had been thinking about that trompe l'oeil picture that looks like white space with black borders to some, a fancy champagne goblet to others, and two human profiles to yet others. Most people who look at the picture and see only an abstraction can see either of the patterns quickly if it is pointed out to them. On the other hand, for most people who see either the goblet or the profiles, it takes real concentration to see it the other way. That’s especially true if they keep staring at it. It seems to be much easier to make the change if you close the book or otherwise walk away from the picture and come back to it later.

Somehow all of this felt related to me as I drove home Sunday afternoon, but I did have to ask myself: What could trompe l’oile possibly have to do with Green Eggs and Ham?

Step back, look away, and presto change-o Aha! Boxes. The connection is the ways we put things in Boxes. And it’s so often the Boxes that tell us what to see and what to think about it. What we like, what we long for, what we fear. We can be such creatures of habit that we see only what we expect to see, whether it’s there or not.

And for some of us – or maybe for all of us, some of the time – what we expect seems to be what we fear. Like our avatar in Green Eggs and Ham, we avoid and postpone for fear of what we don’t know. . . . With thanks to Dr. Seuss:

You do not like them. So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may. Try them and you may, I say.

If you let me be, I will try them.
You will see.

I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!

* * *

I do so like Green eggs and ham!
Thank you! Thank you!

The miracle comes in driving over the mountain and seeing the sun sparkling on the ocean when we procrastinated because we thought we might see clouds.

I don’t know about you, but so much of what's on my mind is always left over from yesterday or due tomorrow that I think I actually forget a basic fact of life: Today is its own new day. That it is attached to yesterday or tomorrow is a burden I have learned to put on it. And to weight it down with all that baggage is to miss all of the new things it brings, all of its possibilities . . . .

When will I learn always to remember to wonder if the monkey on my back actually may be the angel on my shoulder? Or perhaps even more importantly (at least for me): When will I learn to act as if the monkey on my back may actually be the angel on my shoulder?

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