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The Millennium Games


Canadian Psychological Association, copyright 1981

The brain science is clear that my eyes are not cameras recording the glittering spectacle of you. Nor are you some sort of mirror that allows me to glimpse some part of my “true” self. Seeing you, I am, at least in that moment, at your mercy to be beautiful or ugly, brilliant or stupid, a mouse to manipulate, or an image of God.

This article appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. Look at the drawing in the middle and think about what you see. Is it a human? Or a mouse? Perplexing, isn’t it? If you first shift your eyes to the image on the left, you see a mouse in the middle. If you first shift your eyes to the right, you see a human in the middle. And if you look right at it you can see it one way or the other — but not both at the same time. So what is it, really? One undeniable fact is that when we see such a collection of lines we can’t help but attempt to create a coherent picture. We humans are what MIT theologian Anne Foerst calls homo narrandus (see previous article), the storytelling animal. And the pictures we see — the stories we create — depend on what we have seen before. If we have seen only mice, we’ll see a mouse in the middle. If we’ve seen only humans, we’ll see a human in the middle. If we’ve seen both sides, we can see either one — but not both at the same time. Our minds don’t do that. At any particular moment, we get to — and have got to — ch …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

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