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The Architecture of the Mind and Its Relationship to Sight

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mdoor
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The Architecture of the Mind and its Relationship to Sight Our minds are able to engage in an abundance of amazing tasks because of their complex structure. Depending on the architecture of ones brain, their mind is able to perform different functions. In Oliver Sacks’ essay “The Mind’s Eye” he discusses whether or not we can control our own minds. He relates this subject to various individuals’ experiences with blindness. Sacks explains in his essay that a person does not necessarily need to see in the retinal sense in order to use their sight. His ideas relate to those of Juhani Pallasmaa in his essay “The Eyes of the Skin,” in that Pallasmaa believes that sight has become a dominant sense and that we have repressed our other senses. Both authors discuss the ability that the senses posses and how the use and disuse of one of these sense can affect the others. Sight is also a major sense for both authors and they explore how the senses of vision relates to the use of other senses. In this essay I will show how that the “architecture of the mind” is nothing more than the structure of one’s mind and that sight is a major component of this structure, regardless of it being retinal or imaginative, and that when one sense is lost our minds restructure and strengthen the other senses. The mind shares many functions with architecture, such as the processes of observing, designing, constructing, selecting and supervising. The mind conducts these processes with our senses just like an architect conducts each of these processes for every project they create. The mind develops a certain way depending on the senses we use and the way that we use them. A question that is raised by both Pallasmaa and Sacks is whether or not we as humans are capable of controlling our minds. In Sacks’ essay he explores the questions “but to what extent are we-our experiences, our reactions-shaped, predetermined by our brains, and to what extent do we shape our own brains?” (Sacks 303). Sacks’ explores the question of whether or not our brains are capable of changing after the loss or deprivation of one of our senses. “The ancients said that the animals are taught through their organs; let me add to this, so are men, but they have the advantage of teaching their organs in return” (Sacks 303). Sacks is explaining the notion that humans are able to teach their own senses rather than just letting their senses teach them. When we let them we can learn through the activities that our senses experience and vise versa, if needed we can reteach our senses through our mind to perform everyday tasks. Pallasmaa continues to show us that our minds have the ability to change the way we use our senses. “Vision and hearing are now the privileged sociable senses, whereas the other three are considered as archaic sensory remnants with merely private function, and are usually suppressed by the code of culture” (Pallasmaa 283). Pallasmaa discusses how the use of our senses have shifted to allow sight and hearing to be more prominent because of the demands of today’s society. Depending on what senses are more imperative our mind will mold to function that way according to Pallasmaa. Both Pallasmaa and Sacks agree that mind is capable of changing its architecture or structure, whether it because of injury or loss of one of the senses or because of the demands of today’s culture. Our minds have the power to reduce and enhance our senses. In Sack’s essay “The Mind’s Eye” he introduces us to a man named John Hull. A man who had been blinded at the age of forty eight after progressively losing his eye sight over the previous years. Soon after becoming completely blind Hull lost all of his visual perceptions. “By this, Hull meant not only the loss of visual images and memories but a loss of the very idea of seeing, so that concepts like “here”, “there,” and “facing” seemed to lose meaning for him and even the sense of objects having “appearances,” visible characteristic vanished” (Sacks 304). Hull unfortunately lost not only his sense of sight but also his ability to use visual imagery, Hull referred to his inability to visualize as “deep blindness.” As a result of Hull becoming deeply blind, all of his other senses were therefore amplified. “Being a “whole body seer,” for Hull, means shifting his attention, his center of gravity, to the other senses, and he writes again and again of how these have assumed a new richness and power” (Sacks 304). As Hull dealt with the loss of his sight his other senses became more dominant, although he could no longer ‘see’ the rain he was able to experience this nature in an auditory way. He could hear the beauty of the rain, rather then ‘see’ it, in the differences of the acoustics it gave off on various landscapes. This allowed Hull to feel more intimate with the world around him. The idea of being intimate with your environment through the use of your other senses decides sight is an idea that Pallasmaa explores in his essay. “Sight is the sense of the solitary observer, whereas hearing creates a sense of connection and solidarity; our look wanders lonesomely in the dark depths of a cathedral, but the sound of the organ makes us immediately experience our affinity with the space” (Pallasmaa 289). Pallasmaa examines the idea that the sense of sound is influential when connecting an individual to their surroundings. A noise unites an observer with a particular space. Pallasmaa’s beliefs connects to Sacks explanation of Hull’s experience with “deep blindness,” through Hull’s blindness he losses his visual perception and imagery, therefore heightening his additional senses in order to perform to new levels. Working with his amplified senses Hull takes on a whole new sensory experience, just as Pallasmaa describes. Hull was able to reshape the architecture of his mind to explore his new visionless world. While completely losing visual perception and imagery and restructuring the mind may be one way to cope with blindness, as John Hull did, there are other ways of reconstructing the architecture of one’s mind. In Sacks essay we are introduced to individuals that had opposite experiences of that of Hull’s. Zoltan Torey was blinded in an accident when he was twenty-one. Instead of following in Hull’s footsteps he became more visual. “Advised to switch from a visual to an auditory mode of adjustment,” he had moved in the opposite direction, and resolved to develop instead his “inner eye,” hi powers of visual imagery, to their greatest possible extent” (Sacks 306). Torey was advised to reform his mind in order to stay away from thinking in the visual sense; instead he used his blindness to “see” more. Torey was soon able to visualize almost whatever he wanted, he was now able to use his mind in a way that he had never used it in before. He even was able to replace the guttering on his home by himself, a task most people would deem impossible for a blind man. “He had been able to construct a visual world that seemed almost as real and intense to him as the perceptual one he had lost and, indeed, sometimes more teal, more intense, a sort of controlled dream or hallucination” (Sacks 306). Although Torey was originally advised to disconnect from his visual perceptions, he did not, he decided he would strengthen it so much that he could manipulate real life images in his head. “The imagination and day dreaming are stimulated by dim light and shadow. In order to think clearly, the sharpness of vision has to be suppressed, for thoughts travel with an absent-minded and unfocused gaze” (Pallasmaa 286). When sight is lacking it gives a person the opportunity to explore all the potential that their mind has. Pallasmaa relates imagination and imagery to unclear vision, which is what Torey experienced, he lost his sense of sight his vision and imagery increased tremendously. Torey like Hull was able to restructure his entire mind to acquire a new way of thinking, however unlike Hull, Torey restructured is mind to strengthen on visual imagery. Pallasmaa argues that sight has become a dominant sense and that humans have repressed their other senses because the world we live in today does not allow us to use all of our five senses equally. Sacks explores the question of whether or nor our brains are capable of changing after the loss or deprivation of one of our senses. Sacks explains how he believes that it is possible to rebuild the architecture of the mind. “Imagination dissolves and transforms, unifies and creates, while drawing upon the “lower” powers of memory and association. It is by such imagination, such “vision,” that we create or construct our individual worlds” (Sacks 317). The idea of vision is typically classified with the use of our ocular senses, however vision can be much more than just the use of our eyes. “Vision” can be the images that we create in our minds, the architecture we create with our minds. Because vision is much more than just the retinal sense it supports Pallasmaa’s thoughts that sight is dominant over the other senses. “In Western culture, sight has historically been regarded as the noblest of the senses, and thinking itself thought of in terms of seeing. Already in classical Greek thought, certainty was based on vision and visibility” (Pallasmaa 283). Sight has been viewed as a prevailing sense for many years. Many years ago in order for something to be true they had to see it and be able to view it with their eye. I think Pallasmaa and Sacks would agree that sight is the dominant sense for most, but not all, as in John Hull’s case, however Pallasmaa does not explore other forms of vision such as imagination and imagery as Sacks does. Most people let sight become the prevailing sense without thought, they only realize how dominant it has become when they lose their sense of sight and are forced to recreate the architecture of their mind to accommodate the lose of the retinal sense of vision.

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