Monday, May 08, 2006

Phosphenes

Reading Richard Wilbur's "Walking to Sleep" for class tomorrow, I was struck by this image:

Now with your knuckles rub your eyelids, seeing
The phosphenes caper like St. Elmo's Fire

A friend of mine once said something to me about wanting to watch what was going on behind his eyelids. Perhaps we were enjoying alternative approaches to perception at the time. :-)

I wish I had then known the word "phosphenes":

"A sensation of light caused by excitation of the retina by mechanical or electrical means rather than by light, as when the eyeballs are pressed through closed lids."

If I had known the word, I could have said, "Okay, I'll shut up and we can enjoy our phosphenes." Perhaps only "mechanical or electrical means" generate "phosphenes," or the definer failed to consider "alternative approaches" to the production of such "sensations of light."

2 comments:

renew said...

Hey, the comments section finally works for non-bloggers as well...

Phosphenes. What a sensation!! An LSD trip without LSD. I haven't experienced my phosphenes for a long time. Back when I was a little kid, I thought I was the only person in the world to "phosphenize". Then again, children always think they're the only ones to have these kinds of phenomena.

But let me tell you about my encounter of "eavesdropping"--just the word, not the act of doing so. I first came across this expression in a conversation while being in the U.S. I had never heard or read it before, but its meaning was immediately clear to me from the context. The thing is, I understood the person saying "earsdropping". It does sound quite similar and makes as much sense when you hear it for the first time. I thought, what a lovely word for such a "mean" thing; you take off your ears and secretly drop them on the ground to overhear a conversation you're not supposed to hear. This appeared to me as one of the most beautiful expressions in the English language. In the end, it all got destroyed when I found out what the actual word is. Imagine the disappointment.

Teaberry Janet said...

I've been known to check out and check out the phosphenes too. Sometimes I find it distracting, when I can't get to sleep and just can't let my attention go elsewhere.

There's also this thing...If there's a lot of bright light and I open my eyes a TINY bit and look through my lashes, the only color I see is sky blue, even if my field of vision is filled with white clouds. Anybody else?