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The Case of the Disappearing Milk

Kim Hight

Life Imitates Art Blog by Kim Hight

What the...?!

Are My Eyes Deceiving Me?

Have you ever looked for milk in the refrigerator and completely missed it? Seriously, you looked behind everything and it simply wasn't there. Then, an hour later you go back to the fridge for water only to see the milk sitting front and center right before your eyes.

It's all fun and games until it happens when you're all alone in the house! Spooky ghost playing tricks or your brain blocking it out?

I'm going with the brain.

Did you know that your senses send more than 11 million bits of information per second to your brain, but you can only process about 50 per second? So even when your eyes see something, if your brain is overloaded with other stimuli, it probably won't process it. And you won't see it.

Hence the disappearing milk trick.

The brain also fills in gaps when it lacks certain information. This is especially obvious when it comes to art. Have you ever studied a painting up close and been surprised that what you thought was a rock is really just a series of smudges and lines of varied widths, shapes, and colors?

Nothing is as it seems from far away. From a distance it looks like a landscape, but up close you see the real deal.

The artist is merely suggesting a rock is there by using just enough paint strokes for you to fill in the blanks. Then your brain does the rest, and viola - you step back and a rock appears out of the randomness!

In fact, I once heard a famous artist say that the best art is created using the least amount of strokes to convey the vision.

He was betting on the human brain to "finish" the painting.

It's why different people sometimes see wildly divergent things when looking at the same work of art, especially the more abstract pieces. In fact, no two people will ever perceive a piece of art exactly the same way.

That's because no two people are ever exactly the same.

Your life experiences, genetic makeup, stress level, sleep patterns, diet and exercise habits and myriad other factors all determine how you fill in the blanks and what you miss altogether.

This goes way beyond art so let it sink in.

The Case of the Disappearing Milk Blog by Kim HightAre there things going on in your life that you're missing because your focus is elsewhere or your brain is overloaded with less important stimuli?

Or, are you filling in the blanks with something that's really not there and unfairly judging someone or a situation?

We all do it because it's how our brains are wired, but if you're conscience that it happens, you're more likely to slow down, step a little closer, and get a good look at what's really going on.

Or, block out some of the "noise" that doesn't serve you and open your eyes to what else is there.

You can practice by mixing things up.

Routines are great for time management, but they can damper your ability to see outside the box and they keep your parameters tight.

Try meditation or breathing exercises which rewire your brain to be more open. Of course, a cleaner diet and more sleep won't hurt either.

It really can be a wonderful thing the way the brain works as long as you use it to your advantage. Beautiful works of art or music could never be fully enjoyed if the brain didn't work the way it did.

So partner with your brain, and allow it to block out harmful things, add in amazing details, and help you enjoy this world in a more full and immersive way.

Look at art whenever you get the opportunity and give your brain the chance to unravel the mystery. And above all else, try to enjoy the magic of the disappearing milk!

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