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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/316

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

eyelid cap, its iris shutter, its lens, and its sensitive plate—the retina; when properly adjusted for distance and light, the image is formed on the retina as on the glass plate, and the picture is taken. So far the comparison is helpful; but while the camera takes a picture whenever and wherever the plate happens to be exposed, the complete act of seeing requires some co-operation on the part of the mind. The retina may be exposed a thousand times and take but few pictures; or perhaps it is better to say that the pictures may be taken, but remain undeveloped and evanescent. The pictures that are developed are stacked up, like the negatives in the photographer's shop, in the pigeonholes of our mental storerooms—some faded and blurred, some poorly arranged or mislaid, some often referred to and fresh prints made therefrom, and some quite neglected.

In order to see, it is at once necessary that the retina be suitably exposed toward the object to be seen, and that the mind be favorably disposed to the assimilation of the impression. True seeing, observing, is a double process, partly objective or outward—the thing seen and the retina—and partly subjective or inward—the picture mysteriously transferred to the mind's representative, the brain, and there received and affiliated with other images. Illustrations of such seeing "with the mind's eye" are not far to seek. Wherever the beauties and conformations of natural scenery invite the eye of man does he discover familiar forms and faces (Fig. 1); the forces of Nature have rough-hewn the rocks, but the human eye detects and often creates the resemblances. The stranger to whom such curiosities of form are first pointed out often finds it difficult to discover the resemblance, but once seen the face or form obtrudes itself in every view and seems the most conspicuous feature in the outlook. The flickering fire furnishes a fine background for the activity of the mind's eye, and against this it projects the forms and fancies which the leaping flames and the burning embers from time to time suggest. Not all see these fire-pictures readily, for our mental eyes differ more from one another than the physical ones, and perhaps no two persons see the same picture in quite the same way. It is not quite true, however, as many have held, that in waking hours we all have a world in common, but in dreams each has a world of his own, for our waking worlds are made different by the differences in what engages our interest and our attention. It is true that our eyes when open are opened very largely to the same views, but by no one observer are all these views, though visible, really seen.

This characteristic of human vision often serves as a source of amusement. The puzzle picture with its tantalizing face, or animal, or what not, hidden in the trees, or fantastically constructed out of heterogeneous elements that make up the composition, is to many