Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brushing without looking

It occurred to me this morning how odd it is that one stands and watches in the mirror while brushing one's teeth. Yes, the mirror is just there. But there's no need for visual feedback when aiming a brush at the mouth. So I did something odder than watching myself: I turned away from the mirror to brush, and found myself hearing, for the first time really, the sounds of toothbrushing in my head. I discovered that brushing my lower molars makes a different sound from brushing all other teeth.

Then I did something odder still: I decided to write this post.

It makes sense that shutting off one sort of sensory data would make another sort more noticeable, as when people close their eyes to play or listen to music. Music is much more interesting than toothbrushing, and saves this post from being only about brushing my teeth without looking.

comments: 5

Tom the Piper's Son said...

It seems that we narrow our method of acquiring information to habitual sensory patterns.

Your eyes-closed toothbrushing experience reminds me of something someone once said about an "inner vision" that can be trusted. I don't intend to make conjectures about a "third eye" and such, it just may be that there is a kind of vision available with the eyes closed that might be a translation of other sense information.

I might have been recalling the artist James Turrell talking about his childhood Quaker experience of closing one's eyes to "go to the light".

After doing yoga for almost a year solid every morning I just noticed a small change in my daily routines the last few weeks. Formerly, when i'd drop something on the ground I very begrudgingly made the stretch to pick it up and mentally noted how clumsy I was. Now bending down to pick up the item has become a kind vigorous affirmation; an assertion of the joy of being alive. This is not a conscious choice, just a new natural response.

Michael Leddy said...

Good story, Tom. Thanks for putting it here.

I've seen James Turrell's Acton at the Indianapolis Museum of Art — it's all about light, and about habitual ways of seeing. It makes everyone a beginner.

Tillerman said...

Great point. I sometimes practice sailing with eyes closed for exactly this reason.

Annd mow I amd wrotomg tjos p[st witj mu eues c;osed.

Lauve said...

Dear Michael,
Now that you've started having fun brushing, try this:

By periodically opening and closing your mouth while brushing, you can get a lovely imitation of the sound of a train running on its tracks. (Kids dig it, too!)

Michael Leddy said...

Tillerman, I wonder if that's a common practice with sailing.

Lauve, thanks for this toothbrushing tip. All aboard!