Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Under Your Very Nose

I'm a lover of words.  My kids have often tormented me about how I always have a story about where something came from--the derivation of a word, or a story about its use.  They say I'm a "font of totally useless knowledge."    I told my youngest  some years ago it was ok, because I had a ten year old who knew how to use the word "font."

So, as a lover of words, when I read in an essay the non-word, "myscopic," I was intrigued.   The essayist said it was a word his dad had used, and I gathered that it was a pun on the word "myopic," which of course means near-sighted, as in, only able to see what is under your very nose.  I'm very myopic--can't see two feet in front of me without glasses or lenses, but myscopic is, I gather, a little different. 

Apparently, this man's dad had coined this word to refer to those parts of reality that are in your face, or right under your nose.  And because I found this word intriguing, I'm going to expand upon it and extrapolate the term myscopy,  which is the practice of closely examining that which is right under your nose.

Myscopy.  Humans are very untalented at myscopy.  We zip past all kinds of myscopic reality all the time.  You might have noticed that many times you do something, like drive home, and you don't actually remember the detail of doing it.  You can sort of prove you did it, because you're home, in your driveway, in your car, and you are in fact behind the wheel, but as far as being able to say exactly what happened during that drive, not so much.  It is as if you sleepwalked there.

I've been known to do something similar in other situations, like at the grocery store.  I find myself on an aisle that I always go to, but I can't for the life of me remember deciding to go there, or why I decided to go there.   

When I was in law school, one of my professors did a demonstration about the powers of observation, where he had some people run unexpectedly into the class, steal something off the professor's desk, and run out.  Then we were all supposed to write down a "witness statement" about what we had seen happen.  We couldn't agree on what the people looked like, what they were wearing, what they had taken, or even whether they were male or female.  Apparently, people have mental "sleep in their eyes" most of the time.   The failure of myscopy.

We need to develop our skills in myscopy.  We need to focus on what is under our very noses because that's the only stuff we actually have a chance to participate in, change, or really enjoy.  When we zoom from thing to thing, speeding past the scenery like a revolving movie set, we get there all right, but only to find we don't even remember the drive.   And so, we wind up living only slivers of our lives--only really focusing on the parts where we're sitting on the driveway confused about how we got home.   The rest--probably 90 percent--is just a blur.

With a consistent practice of myscopy, we can learn to slow down, shut down the distractions, and LOOK at stuff.  We can examine that which is under our noses.  We can take a moment to pay attention to the lady in front of us in the checkout line (hell, we could even say hi, if we were feeling REALLY daring).  We could notice the sky, how the air smells, what kind of car is in front of us, that cute baby in a stroller, or maybe even how it all makes us feel.  We could actually experience our lives instead of mindlessly trading them in for a blur on the way to the driveway or the grocery aisle.   And, if what we see is good, we might just enjoy it more.  And if  what we see is bad, we might just be moved to try to change it.

So now that I've stolen a word, I'll paraphrase a slogan.   Myscopy--just do it.

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