22 March, 2015

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Where To Put A Brothel Ad In Your Stadium

Sometimes I feel like an idiot.

Well, most of the time, I feel like an idiot, actually. But sometimes it's actually painful. 

Anyone who knows me knows my eyes don't work very well. My depth perception is crap, and it gets worse with fatigue. Throw something at me that I'm not expecting and I will  miss it, to great comic effect...because there is a disconnect between how the world appears to me and how it actually is. If I don't think fast and correct for visual distortion, the set of keys jing-jing-jangling their way across the space from you to me are apt to hit me in the head or sail on by. Where the more athletic of you will snatch something out of the air, I favour clumsy basket catches. 

It's something that originated from being born premature, and spending a goodish chunk of time in an incubator. I should have stopped off at the Glasses Emporium on the way out of the womb, but instead I did untold more damage to my eyes until I was forced to get glasses going into grade four. I never looked back from there. Or to the side. Hell, I hardly ever looked straight ahead.  By that point, my visual habits had been deeply ingrained. 

I'm not blaming everything on what is, all things considered, a trifling disability. Had I chosen to, I could have gone outside to avoid the tumult that was my childhood. I could have learned to play with other kids much, much earlier than I did, instead of burying my head in books. My eyes would have learned a different set of behaviours,  and my life would be entirely different today...while I might not be a professional athlete, it's a good bet I would at least have a driver's license. I might be able to read a blueprint. Hell, I suppose it's possible my attractiveness standards might rest on someone's physical appearance.

At any rate, I'd imagine I'd be able to spot the joke in the above picture pretty much instantly.

But no, I live in this world, and I try to get by, and sometimes I fail, to great comic effect.  

Like here. If I told you how long I stared at this picture, uncomprehendingly, you probably wouldn't believe me. I don't know German beyond a few words, so I couldn't translate that white-on-red ad above the players' bench, although "Play Für Landshut" conjured some lewd images I won't bother elucidating.  I couldn't figure out how so many Redditors could translate what was obviously bawdy German into bawdy English. I clicked back into the text thread for an explanation of the joke, which was not forthcoming. A horrible suspicion began to dawn on me: that the joke was visual, not textual, and I might have to stare at the damned picture all night before I "got" it.   
Okay, let's look for more clues. Wait! There's some English there! "The World could be so Sexy". That sounds like a brothel ad. That's not funny, though, not really. Let's keep looking, even though this is getting tiring. Scan down  bench,  past all the nude legs, and there's the same logo on the other side. Okay, I've definitely found what appears to be a brothel ad,  so apparently there's something funny in the ad itsel--



This is par for the course for me. It has been all my life. I never read comic books as a kid because there were never enough words to make the pictures make sense, and so I missed on on entire pantheons of deities and lack the cultural connections that so many others with properly functional visual cortexes have forged. I don't watch much television, either: again, not enough words. For some reason I can stare at words indefinitely and they don't take much mental effort to decode, but give me pictures instead and I get very lost, very quickly.  Eva's got the TV on most of the time and I very rarely look at it. 

Movies without dialogue: forget it. Just don't bother...there's no way I'll be able to figure out what's going on, even if what's going on is blatantly obvious. Unless I have specifically seen somebody doing the thing being depicted, chances are at least fair I won't know what she's doing. My having done it is irrelevant: different perspective. 
Since the world is made up of far more pictures than words, I have had to devise coping mechanisms.  My mother used to be very leery of sending me out on my own, particularly on busses, because of my absent-mindedness and almost total disregard for my physical surroundings. I can't really blame her, although I did master a bunch of techniques to make it look like I was paying more attention than I was. To this day, I can devote fierce amounts of attention to something directly in front of me (and thus completely miss something even a little to either side), or I can pay enough attention to navigate myself through any environment (but don't ask me to count yellow and red widgets while I'm doing it)...or I can be in my default state, which is almost impossible to explain. The closest I can get is "dim". That's an epithet, sure, but it's also a cold hard fact. All my senses are turned down, almost to the point of being off. I can lapse into this state for three seconds, three minutes, or (rarely) three hours. I try to only let myself do this in safe environments, which in my life means I'm either alone at home or anywhere with Eva. Talk to me when I'm deeply in this state and I won't hear you: you may have to snap your fingers or wave frantically to get my attention and even then it will take a second to filter through my consciousness. You can perhaps appreciate this is not a state of mind conducive to operating an automobile.

I thought everybody was like this. For years, I thought all of you just shut down when your mental efforts weren't required, and I admired those all of you who could muster the mental stamina to drive a vehicle for HOURS--to me, that's basically an exam where each question is timed, some of them have to be answered in less than a tenth of a second, and one wrong answer will kill you. Finding someone like Eva, whose attention to detail even in her most relaxed state is simply nonpareil, was even more of a revelation to me. Though I've done her at least a little good: she is ever-so-slowly learning how to power down and even off for brief periods.

I can function reasonably well in known environments, such that you probably can't tell I have a problem. But introduce something completely unexpected into that world and I'll either not notice it or, noticing it, not immediately comprehend it. The time I damned near burned my house down is an excellent example of this. I'm looking at a fire. It doesn't belong on my stove. Pretty fire. I know fire is bad, very bad, but now that I have seen it I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do next. Get it out. Or get out. Which one? Bring it out with me? Where is "out"? All of that and more shot through my brain in the space of maybe five seconds, but it felt like five hours. 

 I've made the joke before that a parade of naked women could sashay by me without drawing any attention from me. It's not really a joke. If I'm walking down the street and a bunch of naked women walk by without looking at me or saying a word to me...well, I'd like to hopeI would notice them, but I certainly wouldn't pay them more than a glancing glance. None of my business, just part of the passing scenery. As a man I've been taught not to stare at that kind of scenery and as a non-shallow human being, I wouldn't do it anyway. This assertion has caused me more online grief than (almost) any other one I've made. Most people think I'm lying through my teeth. "Even if what you're saying is hypothetically true", one person told me, "that means you're actually blind. Or a fag. Or just the most beta male in the history of pussy beta males." Well, blind I ain't, and if you substitute naked men for naked women you'll get precisely the same reaction from me. Unless one of them (man or woman) addresses me in some way, I have no reason to interact with her or him, and so I won't. As for "beta", well, by my understanding an "alpha" male is supposed to select the choicest morsel from the womanly parade,  rape her until she likes it, and then throw her away. Even typing that makes me physically ill. I'll be the proud beta male, thank you.

I do wonder how much my traitorous eyes have to do with my inside-out philosophy of love. I'm honestly not sure. My eyes do cause me to disregard physical attractiveness, but there is no denying that someone's physical beauty grows in direct proportion to how emotionally attracted I am. Trying to explain that, particularly to someone to whom I am attracted, is a nontrivial exercise, even harder than saying "I love you" and then having to explain just what THAT means.

Look at that picture above again. Are those legs pretty? Presumably they're supposed to be. I don't know, though. I couldn't tell you what a "pretty" leg looks like...in fact, the concept is kind of alien to me. How can a leg be pretty by itself? A leg is pretty if it's attached to a pretty person.
There are such things as pretty faces...those would be the ones which are genuinely smiling. You can tell a genuine smile because it reaches the eyes.   
But what's really important is a pretty disposition, which is something I can feel more than see. You can't turn those off if you've got one: you might be angry or in pain, and you'll still be beautiful to me. Beauty isn't something I see with my eyes, it's something I feel in my soul.

I keep practicing, hoping that one day I will be able to watch, say, a short film without textual clues and interpret it properly. I maintain hope that one day, I will be able to do this reliably. Until then, if you want to laugh at me, ask me to find the brothel ad in a picture like this.


karen said...

I don't want to laugh at you. I find it really interesting when people are able to articulate the way they perceive things, and how differently we do perceive.
I learned only a few years ago, when I was trying to teach a friend to sew, that not everyone can look at an object, visualize it from angles other than the one facing and understand the shape of all the component parts. I too thought that everyone sees the same way I do.

I wish we were able to see the world through each others eyes. It would probably clear a lot of things up.

Ken Breadner said...

"I wish we were able to see the world through each others eyes. It would probably clear a lot of things up."
I agree...and I wish more people thought that, let alone tried to live it as you do.