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Figure and Field

nondream poem on subliminality by Chris Wayan, May 1990

Picture a field:
Flower, soy, football, star,
even this sorry page.
You can't help it:
You connect the dots!
You see letters as words, or bugs,
Not holes in white lace.
You constellate a face,
The players form a play.
Orion leaps into your eye.
And now he's stuck!
You forget the field.
The figure, the sign, the line
Muscles in the way.
No big deal, you say.
Ow! Greek hero
Stuck in your eye!
And so,
the fields we know
Wither and die, and die.

This was a weird little vision about the shadow side of the human ability to connect the dots and see whole patterns--that pattern, the face hidden in the leaves, that poster-child for an abstraction, becomes the Figure, and all the rest becomes the field. And we're poisoning the fields. Because they aren't there to us. Our talent for seeing patterns comes with a price: a talent for blindness. For ignoring the not-pattern. Until it's too late.

LISTS AND LINKS: figure-field perception - mistakes - ecological dreams - a closely related tale of the Southwest: Waste - poetry

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