People Don’t Look For Rainbows…They See Them

cropped-sorasak-217807.jpgSyntheney is a matter of experiencing an Aha! that makes all the difference. It is the perception of a natural harmony first seen when you aren’t looking. How that happens is the subject of this post. It is also the reason our Welcome-page features the image of a rainbow.

A copy of that image also appears here for your reference.

Put yourself in the place of the photographer who took this picture. From a distance he sees the waterfall cascading over the precipice from the river above. He sees sunlight shining from behind him and through the water droplets in the falls ahead. The spectacular natural harmony of the rainbow emerges where his viewpoint intersects the blending of water droplets and sunlight. We know this because the image portrays what he sees.

This rainbow is a simple example of syntheney in action.

  • The interaction of sunlight and water droplets manifests their natural harmony as a rainbow, always latent in such conditions awaiting perception by an observer.
  • The perception of the rainbow by the observer, possible only from the proper viewpoint or perspective, is the sudden Aha! or epiphany that is the essence of syntheney.
  • This epiphany is a sudden recognition or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, in this case, the rainbow in the observation of sunlight through water droplets.
  • In total it is an instance of apprehending the true nature and essential meaning of a latent natural harmony, transforming possibility into opportunity as a result of this recognition.

Look more closely at the image. Find the solitary person standing in the distance near the foot of the waterfall. Does that person see the rainbow the photographer sees? Or a different rainbow? Or none at all?

When the proper conditions are present the rainbow effect exists, but not in a single location.

  • Instead, many rainbows will exist, viewable from different perspectives.
  • Only one rainbow will be seen by a given observer, according to that observer’s viewpoint.
  • Even two observers who are nearby one another will not see the same rainbow because they are seeing the light being emitted from different water droplets.

So, no, the person near the foot of the waterfall will not see the rainbow the photographer sees. However, that person could perceive another rainbow from a viewpoint at the foot of the waterfall that is properly situated as to direction and elevation:

  • the direction between the sun and the water droplets with the sun behind the observer, and
  • the mixture of the sunlight and the water droplets intersecting at an upward angle of 40 to 42 degrees overhead the observer.

Failing to satisfy these conditions would mean the other person would not see a rainbow even as the photographer was taking the picture we have been discussing.

Of course, life isn’t all rainbows, but syntheney applies in even the most mundane of matters. For example, mold. In 1928 a researcher in London prepared Petri dishes to culture a bacterium he was studying. He then departed on a vacation planning to resume his research using the newly cultured bacteria that would be ready when he returned.

Upon his return, he found one of his Petri dishes had mold growing on it. Instead of sunlight and water droplets, he was dealing with bacteria and mold, which seemed to indicate the dish was contaminated and thus useless. He was about to discard the Petri dish when he recognized his rainbow. He noticed something he could not have anticipated, and no one else had ever seen or perceived its import if they had seen it. The mold on the Petri dish was dissolving the bacteria around it.

When he cultured the mold itself, he found it contained a powerful antibiotic. The researcher was Sir Alexander Fleming. The bacteria-killing substance in the mold was penicillin. It was identified years later by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain. The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to them and Fleming in 1945.

Today, the death rate due to infectious diseases is about 1/20th of what it was in 1900, thanks to penicillin and subsequent antibiotics. Fleming’s rainbow was a direct result of what he saw when he wasn’t looking.

If a rainbow, is an example of syntheney in action, and if syntheney is a natural harmony first seen when you aren’t looking, how will you ever see a rainbow if you do not look? How can you ever derive any of the benefits of syntheney we touched on in our Welcome-post?

The answer involves the nature of how we “look” and how we “see.” This is not a play on words. It goes to the fundamental question of how we think.

Seeing Without Looking

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Henri Bergson

When we look we are directing our attention toward something, e.g., turning our heads and using our sense of vision to search for, watch or examine something. When we see we could be using our sense of vision to perceive what we were looking for. However, we might not be looking at all. We might be perceiving or apprehending something either by using our senses or our mind.

So, our range of perception is more limited when we are looking than when we are seeing. Looking requires a conscious choice about how to use our senses. Seeing may involve our senses but might also involve the much broader range of apprehension involving the non-conscious perception of the mind.

This dichotomy of conscious versus non-conscious operation mirrors how our brain functions. We operate on two levels:

  • Deliberate Thinking – similar to flying an aircraft as Pilot In Command
    • We pay attention to objects in our environment, some by choice and others by reaction.
      • We choose to set our altitude, course, and airspeed.
      • We react to alert systems such as the onboard stall warning system and radio transmissions from air traffic controllers.
      • We favor certain choices based on our unique flying experiences.
    • Flying as Pilot In Command is a high-attention, high-energy-consumption role.
  • Default Mode Thinking – similar to flying an aircraft on Autopilot
    • We make choices (course, altitude, flight speed) at the beginning of the flight that the Autopilot largely monitors and maintains.
    • Flying on Autopilot is a relatively low-attention, low-energy-consumption role.

When you are engaged in Deliberate Thinking your attention is fundamentally consumed. However, when you are engaged in Default Mode Thinking your attention is freed for much broader pursuits referred to as mind wandering. Research indicates we spend nearly one-half of our waking hours on mind wandering in Default Mode.

This is where creativity happens. It is in mind wandering that the rainbow you could never track down deliberately will freely appear in your field of perception. Once seen it is the “distant connection,” heretofore beyond range, that elicits your Aha!

The Aha! could be a simple matter of novelty or an expression of sheer genius such as what Filippo Brunelleschi saw.

Brunelleschi’s Discovery of Linear Perspective

We take perspective in art for granted. Perspective is the realistic appearance of objects conveying a three-dimensional impression –height-width-depth– plus relative position to one another – when drawn or painted on a two-dimensional surface and viewed from a particular point.

In the ancient world, both the Greeks and the Romans had mastered the use of linear perspective in art. Their understanding and skill were lost for over a thousand years following the fall of the Roman Empire.

For example, this is Madonna And Child On A Curved Throne, painted in the 1200s.


The image is flat, lacking any sense of depth or space.














In contrast, this is the School of Athens painted by Raphael in 1510.


Note how the perspective lines draw your eye to the center of the image and the vanishing point at the back of the picture.  This creates a sense depth and proportionality between the people and the structure and among the people.

It was Brunelleschi who resurrected linear perspective.  While his solution may seem simple now, it was revolutionary then.  He noticed something that had eluded everyone for some thousand years after it had been lost in antiquity.   He saw how parallel lines appeared to converge at a point in the distance from a single point of view.  His rainbow carried him to applying a single vanishing point to a canvas and discovering how to calculate depth.

As a test of his technique, he painted a panel with an image of the front of the Florentine Baptistry.  He then drilled a hole through its vanishing point.  An observer could look toward the Baptistry through the hole from the back of the panel. Then by moving a mirror in and out of the viewpoint, an observer could see the amazing correspondence of the appearance of the image to the actual Baptistry building or could confirm the same by sighting the Baptistry through the sighting hole in the mirror.

Brunelleschi Baptistry Mirror

The response was sensational, as more and more Renaissance painters adopted Brunelleschi’s technique of linear perspective, changing the expression of art forever.


On The Horizon…

Next time we will take up the topic of how we can draw syntheney from mind wandering to elicit an Aha!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s