Ghosts at the Edge of Blindness

Out of the corner of my eye I see them. Perhaps, for me, that’s not surprising. I am, after all, blind in my right eye. My peripheral vision consequently extends over fifty percent of my eyesight. This blindness, though, provides other sight.

That doesn’t explain what “they” are. I see “things”, fair enough – but what? Tricks of the light? Images conjured by the mind? Genuine phenomena, out there, in the “real” world (but unseen by most folk)? Who knows – but see them I do. They are my ghosts. They inhabit my world as I do (they also provide insights for many of my stories in the “Ghosts and Other Tales” series).

Such vision has  – since the early 1500s – been called “askance” in English. It has an obscure derivation in Middle English, probably from the Old French  word “quanses” meaning “as if”, or “how if”, with links to meanings such as “insincere” or “deceptive”.

This provides an interesting gloss on the phenomenon. It is vision which questions vision. If such slippery sight occurs at the margins, why is the world “out there” that we see full on, any more reliable? Which, indeed, is the real: the seemingly concrete, or the apparitions which flicker at the edges?

The world we, by common convention, inhabit, has many ways of manifesting itself. Colours shift, change, and are never the same from second to second, or from person to person. Focus and perspective are similarly mobile. It doesn’t take a huge change in perception for all the old certainties to crumble. “Out of the corner of the eye” is but one way this veneer is stripped. When one is drifting off to sleep, or waking up; when intoxicated; when in a highly charged state emotionally; when ill; when meditating; on the brink of death: all of these mind states provide alternative “realities”. And who is to say they are not insights into the world as it truly is?

Certainly for me, my blindness has revealed more at its edges than my so called “good eye”.

(all images copyright Gavin Jones)

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