Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

What is it the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking-Glass says?

"Sometimes I can believe six impossible things before breakfast"?

If not that exact phrase, something pretty close.

And what about the miraculous Mr Cheika, wizard coach of the Australian rugby team? He expressed a similar sentiment when someone asked him about the Australian team's improvement since he began working with them.

"Believing has to start somewhere", he said, "one person starts, you get another person and build a bit of a crowd."

As we drove from Brussels towards the North Sea coast the other day, I was thinking about these peculiarly belief-based approaches to reality. Beyond the car window, the landscape rolled out, dead flat, to the horizon. Most of the view was taken up by a vast dull sky.

At least it was until I put on my dark glasses.

As soon as I did, the apparently dull sky became transformed. Where before I had seen an array of flat clouds, barely distinguishable one from another in their very faintly graded shades of off-white, now what opened out before me was a radiant, mother-of-pearl panorama of pale blues and purples and pinks and oranges. Suddenly, the scene was transformed into something as glowingly irridescent as a Tiepolo ceiling. 

So which was reality? Which should I believe in? Was it the dreary vision I saw without my dark glasses or was it the beautiful one revealed by polarisation - or whatever mechanism was at work as I looked through my light reducing lenses? And how many other impossible wonders are we surrounded by, invisible to us simply because our minds prevent us from seeing them?

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