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Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes

Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes

Poetry or real life experience?

Once upon a time there was a high school student who was struggling to write a literature essay. The student couldn’t find anything good about the writer she had to discuss; he simply looked like a depressed misogynist, unable to even properly commit suicide at the first try. There is no need to write and publish a poem called “Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes” just because a woman broke up with you (not that the student would blame her), right?

The student grew up, forgetting about the high school essay, and entered the academic world, until one day a colleague invited her to read a research article…

The article stated that you can actually see monsters or other creepy things by gazing into your lover’s eyes. Well, to be fair the original research from Caputo (2015) spoke of someone else’s eyes in general, but we all know what happens when we fall in love. Tremendous amounts of time spent staring at each other and contentedly sighing. Even scientists have known so for a long time! (Goldstein et al., 1976) So what if the boring writer was writing about a real life experience he had?

The principle behind this disturbing fact is the one of the monster in the mirror. Our mind somehow tricks us into showing a part of our subconscious imagery. In a way, it can probably be considered a form of meditation, since we place all our attention on an object until we experience a kind of revelation.

What is incredible is how frequently this event occurs: it can happen when we stare at someone, or when we stare into the mirror, maybe also with pictures and portraits? Something can happen by gazing at pretty much anything. The colors slowly fade away, everything but the object of focus seems to disappear, until the object’s outline disappears… and then you blink and everything goes back to normal. This effect is called Troxler fading, in honor of its discoverer Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler, and it is caused by neurons getting bored. If you keep looking at something immobile and unchanging, the neurons involved slow down or even stop working.

At first glance it may seem like a paradox that humans rely so heavily on sight, when such visual deformations are so common. Now you are probably starting to feel like the cheated partner that keeps on justifying the lies of your beloved eyes. But the truth is, they have not been lying on purpose. Rather, they are simply proposing their interpretation of what they perceived, and what they perceive is only a limited portion of reality.

What is important is being aware that these “glitches” can occur, so that we will not get scared of the happenings of our own mind. So we can just “take it easy”, once we realize how our perception of reality might be easily tricked.

No one will ever know if the poem “Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes” was a result of staring too long into his lover’s eyes or simply the fruit of creativity, but that former high school student has become more tolerant of the depressed, misogynistic writer.

References:
Poetry Magazines – Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes
Caputo GB (2015). Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing. Psychiatry research, 228 (3), 659-63 PMID: 26112448
Goldstein MA, Kilroy MC, & Van de Voort D (1976). Gaze as a function of conversation and degree of love. The Journal of psychology, 92 (2d Half), 227-234 PMID: 1271300

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Chiara Civardi
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