Click here to go to the next issue
Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day
#2655 - Tuesday, November 28, 2006
- Editor: Jerry Katz
The Nondual Highlights
Thanks to Dustin LindenSmith for contributing the article from which excerpts have been taken. Dustin runs the Awaken to Nonduality blog at http://community.livejournal.com/nonduality/. Also he has been a close partner in nondual crime for the last ten years.
This is a long article. I've only extracted a few paragraphs that bear on nondual reality. The rest of the article is psychological, scientific, and human interest.
If anyone has thoughts on the implications of this article for enlightenment, or can provide relevant quotations, write us and we'll publish your letters. Thanks.
"Perhaps the fluid reality we perceive is just a flimsy construct of individual puzzle pieces..."
They can see your eyes, your nose, your mouth and still not recognize your face. Now scientists say people with prosopagnosia may help unlock some of the deepest mysteries of the brain.
By Joshua Davis
BILL CHOISSER WAS 48 when he first recognized himself. He was standing in his bathroom, looking in the mirror when it happened. A strand of hair fell down he had been growing it out for the first time. The strand draped toward a nose. He understood that it was a nose, but then it hit him forcefully that it was his nose. He looked a little higher, stared into his own eyes, and saw himself.
For most of his childhood, Choisser thought he was normal. He just assumed that nobody saw faces. But slowly, it dawned on him that he was different. Other people recognized their mothers on the street. He did not. During the 1970s, as a small-town lawyer in the Illinois Ozarks, he struggled to convince clients that he was competent even though he couldn't find them in court. He never greeted the judges when he passed them on the street everyone looked similarly blank to him and he developed a reputation for arrogance. His father, also a lawyer, told him to pay more attention. His mother grew distant from him. He felt like he lived in a ghost world. Not being able to see his own face left him feeling hollow.
He was sent to a psychiatric hospital near Stuttgart, where a doctor named Joachim Bodamer examined him. There had been reports of face blindness as far back as antiquity, but no one had studied it systematically, so the physician decided to make a detailed analysis.
To assess the extent of the man's impairment, Bodamer dressed the officer's wife of seven years as a nurse and lined her up with four real nurses. Bodamer asked if he noticed anything different about any of the nurses. The man said no. Next, he was told to look in a mirror and report what he saw. "It's strange," he said. "I've looked at myself often, but that's not me anymore, although I know that it's me. But I have a feeling of unfamiliarity."
Bodamer wrote a 47-page report on the case and coined a name for the condition: prosopagnosia (in Greek, prosopo is face and agnosia means without knowledge). He defined it as "the selective disruption of the perception of faces, one's own face as well as those of others, which are seen but not recognized as faces belonging to a particular owner."
... fundamental questions about human consciousness weighed on (Bodamer). What might his patient's condition imply about how healthy people experience the world? Maybe there are mental mechanisms for perceiving each aspect of reality parts of the human mind that render faces, houses, and bombs meaningful. While everything was falling apart, Bodamer had stumbled onto a clue about how things come together in our heads. Perhaps the fluid reality we perceive is just a flimsy construct of individual puzzle pieces, any one of which could suddenly disappear. In nothing else, Bodamer wrote, "does medical fact touch so closely on the basis of all knowledge."
MORDECHAI HOUSMAN, A GENIAL, portly Hasidic Jew, is playing Minesweeper on his computer at home in Brooklyn. One of his three young sons sits next to him though Housman isn't sure which.
"Who are you?" Housman finally asks with a smile.
"I'm Abraham, Dad," Abraham says. The 6-year-old has heard this question before and thinks his father is just kidding. It's like a family joke. He doesn't understand that his dad really can't tell him apart from other kids on the street.
The Hasidic men in the neighborhood clad uniformly in black pants, white shirt, black jacket, and black hat are even harder to distinguish. But this doesn't bother Housman. He considers it a blessing of sorts. "In my culture," he says, "we de-emphasize material things and appearances. Our focus should be on God. For me, I've been given a head start."
Developmental prosopagnosia came to light in large part because of Internet groups. Before that, most people born with the condition assumed they were just bad with faces. It's not the type of thing most would go to a doctor about, and even if they did, their physician probably couldn't help, because many doctors are unaware of it. In many ways, this is a neurological condition discovered by Yahoo.
Which makes Duchaine wonder if other groups of people with perception problems will start to coalesce online. It would certainly help him if new groups formed with names like Trouble Recognizing Gender or Trouble Recognizing Myself. Among the millions of Internet users, there are sure to be some who consider themselves normal save for one troubling quirk. They may hold the key to a deeper understanding of the way we assemble reality.
top of page