Sunday, November 28, 2004

Concentrating obliviously

I'm often oblivious to things that are happening around me. Things that other people can't help but notice just fly right past me. I probably saw the appropriate Simpsons episode ten or more times before I got the Grover Cleveland joke. I can walk by a recently-constructed building dozens of times before I even notice that it's finished. People can be standing right behind me in my office calling my name and it doesn't even occur to me that they want my attention. However, I also notice and remember things that nobody else does. I remember what people wore the day before. I notice when a dialog box is using Microsoft Sans Serif instead of Tahoma. I can completely miss the fact that the lyrics of a song are blatantly sexual, but hear a dozen different components to its beat. I remember expressions on peoples' faces when I say things, where they usually sit at a table in relation to where I sit, and who they were looking at.

Until today, I always thought that I must notice all of these odd things as a compensation mechanism—since I miss so much of the obvious, my brain compensates by catching a lot of the subtle. Today, though, it hit me: what if my random attention to detail is what is causing me to constantly miss out on the big picture?

I guess if I had to choose between only noticing the obvious things and only noticing the subtle things, I'd stick with the subtle things, 'cause that's what I know... I mean, why change what works? I guess that it just gives me a weird perspective on things. Or, perhaps I'm not really that strange after all, and what I call "obvious" and "subtle" aren't really all that different, depending only on one's perspective.


Matthew Beermann said...

It reminds me a bit of agnosia, a syndrome which (broadly speaking) renders people unable to assemble sensory stimuli into a larger whole. Not that I'm implying this is you, of course, just a random connection. If you get bored, read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat".

Travis said...

Hmmm, I've heard of that before. For some reason I think it might have been on The X-Files. Regardless, I'm not quite to THAT point yet.