This photo was taken almost 4 years ago, and although its true that memories fade, and although you can't see my face in the picture, I'm pretty sure I was smiling. The dirt alone was enough to make a person cry, for heaven's sake, never mind the blisters, but I was grinning from ear to ear. I took this picture of my feet on the second day of the Boston 3-Day For the Cure, a 60-mile walk aimed at raising money and awareness to combat breast cancer. This was the first weekend in August, 2007 and it was 104 degrees. I don't think anyone's feet were made to sweat that much - so, yup - we got blisters - and heat rash - and sun burn. But no one that I encountered over those three days - and there were about 2,000 of us - no one, was whining. Why? Because the people of "The 3-Day" are a rising tide that inspires and lifts us all. I had never before been around that many strong, selfless, gracious and determined human beings in one place. The spirit of The 3-Day is infectious and I hope this blog will continue its spread. Maybe by talking about what I go through to fundraise and train for a 3-Day event, I can help people stay motivated and committed. I am proud to be associated with this cause. I am grateful I have the strength to walk. And I'm filled with joy that I can do it with such a great group of people. So I'll buck up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Feel free to join me. But remember; no whining allowed!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Essay on Illusions in 3 Parts

A Tri-tone Paradox For Your Eyes.

Part 1 - "C" - Middle C? Maybe. . . . . .

Apparently Dr. Phil did a show this week about personality types. I know nothing about Dr. Phil and have never seen his show. I'm not so culturally unaware that I don't know who he is or anything. Of course I've heard of him. . . . He was, like, Oprah's pool boy or something, and gave out good advice and became some sort of celebrity psychologist as a result. I'm kidding. I understand he has helped many people and I'm sure his show about personality types was interesting, but I didn't see it. What I DID see, though, was a YouTube video that he used to encourage people to watch, and it was a real teaser, designed to get your attention and make you want to tune in and find out what kind of person you really are.

The video is of a computer generated dancer spinning around and around. The question is, is she spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise. Dr. Phil then advised everyone to tune in at a later date to see what their answer revealed about their personality. I immediately suspected that it revealed absolutely nothing. But then, I am a cynical person. The fact that I put no stock in the "personality test" possibly says everything you need to know about my personality. Or does it?

I rather enjoy optical illusions. (And auditory ones, too, but that's for Part II, forthcoming.) Just for the fun of it though, not for some fundamental truth that they might reveal about my very soul or world view. There are some great ones; the Necker Cube, old or young woman, MC Escher's stuff like the ascending/descending staircase. I did a science project about them once and found, quite simply, that some people see one thing and others see something else. It seemed the differences among people's reactions could have as much to do with who they were just talking to, what time of day it was, or what they just ate as any deeply ingrained essence of their being. Of course, I was some scrawny little high schooler making these observations, not some Ph.D. with a big grant budget and access to complicated statistical computer programs and several nerdishly sexy research assistants.

Regardless, my opinion hasn't changed much. But on something of a lark, I took the "test" anyway. I sat at my computer a couple of nights ago, clicked on that little dancer image, and off she went like a whirling dervish. I immediately and without any doubt in my mind, saw her turning counter-clockwise. I decided to watch it again, just to be sure. And again, she took off in the same direction. But my 6-year-old son was playing Lego's in the floor next to me and he heard the intro again and looked up. He glanced at the screen and stated, "Clockwise." I looked down at him and said, "Which way is that?" - just to be sure he knew the difference. He took his little index finger and moved it out in front of himself and drew a circle in the air, parallel to the floor, leading out and away to the right. Then he went back to playing Lego's, not caring at all what any of this meant. I looked back at the screen and there she was, plain as day, spinning clockwise.

I panicked. It had never mattered to me whether Dr. Phil thought I might be more ruled by my left brain than my right. I had just assumed he was going to alert all the "clockwise" people that they tended to be more creative, holistic, etc. and the "counter-clockwise" people with their left brains that they tended to be more logical, linear, etc. This result was something else entirely, though. Someone who sees the dancer spin BOTH directions within the same 20 second span?! Clearly this was an indication that my brain is mush. This had to say, in no uncertain terms, that my mind is malleable; I'm impressionable and highly susceptible to suggestion. And suggestions by a 6-year-old, no less. Crap. And here I've spent the last 20 years trying to be my own woman.

Before giving in to a full-fledged meta-physical meltdown, I decided to take a deep breath. I looked back at my Lego-playing pal again and watched him put an Indiana Jones hat on a Storm Trooper and pop him into a one-of-a-kind pod racer. I smiled and thought I'd try the "test" one more time. And that dancer, tricky little tart that she is, had gone back to spinning counter-clockwise.

I turned the computer off. But I couldn't get it out of my head. Maybe there WAS something to this personality indicator, and maybe it didn't have to be what I first thought, because, well, who wants to think that about themselves?! Maybe it was something more along the lines of the traditional Dr. Phil assessment regarding what part of your brain dominates your way of thinking. I remembered taking one of those right-brain/left-brain tests one time. There were 32 questions. My answers to exactly 16 of them indicated my right brain, the creative, intuitive side, was in charge. Exactly 16 also indicated my left brain, the logical, analytical side, most impacted how I function in the world. The lack of a clearly dominant hemisphere perhaps explains my ability to see the spinning in two different directions almost at once. Then again, it might mean I'm the perfect representative of my astrological sign, Gemini, The Twins. Open-minded and able to see both sides of an argument; inconsistent in decision-making to the point of almost appearing to have a split personality. Far from seeming freaky, this is all, in fact, starting to sound pretty accurate.

OK, so maybe my response to the personality test turns out to be perfectly in line with my actual personality and maybe this Dr. Phil is more than a pool boy after all. But if, in the end, I am just a weak-minded joiner, then thank God I saw an ad for The 3-Day. From that perspective, I'm happy to be impressionable. I'll be a willing sucker for a good suggestion. "Clockwise?" - yup. "Counter-clockwise?" - that too! "Walk 60 miles?" - I'm up for that. "In possibly extreme heat or a cold rain?" - I can get on board. "Raise a whole bunch of money by pestering the bejeesus out of your friends and co-workers?" - Sounds good. "Do it all again next year?" - Count me in. "And the next?" - I'm all over it. . . . .

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