Between Here & Home: Holding a cow in your hand

What a slice of pie looks like depends on how hungry you are

LOOKING out of the car window on my way home from work, I was struck by the thought that maybe all those cows grazing in the paddocks really were only as big as my thumbnail. 

When reality is weighing a little heavy, it’s fun to mess with it. 

To accept things as they appear rather than as our rational brains try to convince us they are. 

It makes the world a less scary place when those people across the street are only two-and-a-half centimetres tall. 

It’s what we do when we create – switch off the left brain and take the imagination for a walk. 

It’s why Andre Breton had no trouble imagining a horse galloping across a tomato. 

I’m reminded of a story by the renowned British designer Alan Fletcher. 

He recalls having a drink under the stars in Turkey – gazing at a perfect crescent moon, then noticing the same moon reflected in his glass of wine. 

“Barely an eighth of an inch long,” he wrote. 

“To think that tiny thing was not only the subject of innumerable songs, but also controlled the shifting tides.”

 What we observe is not nature itself, the German physicist Heisenberg famously said, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. 

In other words, what a slice of pie looks like depends on how hungry you are. 

We can choose to create our own realities.

 At a Pablo Picasso exhibition opening in 1916, after seeing his work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a punter in the crowd approached the artist and asked why he didn’t paint people the way they looked. 

“Well, how do they look?” Picasso asked.

 The man took a photograph of his wife from his wallet and handed it to the artist. 

Picasso examined the picture, then handing it back, said, “She is small, isn’t she. And flat, too!”  What things look like is a convention, not a truth. 

The way we see the world is always a perfectly unique fusion of the viewer and the view. 

That’s perception. 

I found a gecko on my office wall a few nights ago – a beautiful thing with bulbous eyes and suction cup feet. 

When I took him outside I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to see the world as a gecko. 

Walls are their terra firma, and trees grow sideways. 

We humans might have our heads in the clouds, but even if we wore specs that turned everything upside down, our brains would simply adjust after a day or two. 

It takes effort to see the world differently, but the rewards are great. 

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, hold your thumb and forefinger up to the world. 

Imagine that tiny cow running across the palm of your hand – balance that distant tree on the tip of your nose. 

Create the world anew.


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