Walking down the street this morning on my way to the coffee shop, I saw a row of soldiers standing on the sidewalk in front of me.
They were there for only an instant, until my eyes adjusted and I realized that I was seeing shadows cast by the rising sun across a row of parked cars.
The mind can only interpret what the eye takes in, and that process of interpretation can take a few seconds. I wouldn’t call it a hallucination, not even a trick of the eye, but a delay in gathering all of the data and putting it together in a proper context. It can be fun to play with that lag and look at the world as a kind of Rorschach inkblot test.
With the mind’s filters in place, it makes the world a predictable and logical place to exist. The world makes sense, and thus we can get on with the business of getting things done. Turning off those filters allows other imagery to float to the surface.
A tree became a Native American dreamcatcher before me, its branches hanging down like strings of feathers and beads. A hand stretched out across the sky, formed by clouds raked by airplane trails. The conversation of a pair of construction workers echoed against a fence behind me and became the disembodied voices of ghosts.
Behind the coffee shop, someone had dropped a small basket from the local market, and two fruit cups sat where their groceries must have spilled, their contents still sealed. I imagined a homeless person would be willing to claim them, even if the owner considered them no longer worth picking up. Then I wondered about why the basket was left behind. Several scenes played out in my imagination, mostly disturbing stories about what must have happened to the shoppers.
Sometimes having a mind filter can be a good thing.