Seeing Upside Down
I remember taking a psychology class and learning about an experiment where George M. Stratton made some glasses that flipped the image going to his eyes; so everything was upside down. When he first put them on, he was disoriented. It was pretty obvious to him and everyone around him that something was wrong.
After four days, everything was still upside down, but on the fifth day, the images appeared upright. This experiment has been repeated many times, and with time, people are able to write their name, grab an object, and even ride a bike while wearing these glasses. When he finally took them off, he was disoriented again for a short time while his eyes adjusted back. This phenomenon is known as “perceptual adaptation.”
Imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a pair of “inversion goggles” for sale online. It sounded like oodles of fun just a click away, so I ordered some.
I opened the package like a kid on Christmas morning, and when I pulled them out, I realized that they were a pair of cheap chemistry goggles that were spray-painted green, and someone had glued on a prism. Well, quality issues aside, I put them on and tried to do normal things, looking like it was my first day on this planet. I was literally better at doing everyday tasks with my eyes closed than through these goggles.
The inversion goggles take what is normal and true and flips it upside down. When you first try it, it is very clear that something is wrong, but the longer you keep on the goggles, the more normal things appear.
Living in the state of sin is similar to wearing inversion goggles. Sin is ultimately just a twisting of what is good. With sin, what was right side up is now upside down. At first it may be obvious that the sin is wrong. But if we were to continue living in it and choosing wrong, we would become numb to it. We may be so used to it, that taking off the goggles, or turning away from sin towards truth, will be difficult.
In some ways, we may have been raised to view certain areas of life through “inversion goggles.” Maybe our parents raised us believing that it is OK to skip Mass. Maybe a friend wrongly told you there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, or that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are a good person. You may be conditioned to think one way, but that doesn’t mean that way of thinking is the truth.You may be conditioned to think one way, but that doesn’t mean that way of thinking is the truth.
If someone tries to teach us the truth (and take off our goggles), things feel wrong and discombobulated, and we quickly put them back on our faces.
There are few points to all this:
- There is absolute truth. There is right and wrong. What we believe is either the truth or a lie (we either have the goggles on or off).
- We need to take time studying the truth and having faith in God in order to overcome the conditioning that has conformed our conscience toward lies.
- We have to share the truth with others. If we see someone has things upside down, it is our duty (out of love for our neighbor) to help them to realize the truth and help them turn themselves right side up. Not to condemn them for their actions, but to help them to see the truth.
In reality, it doesn’t matter if our vision is working, if we are physically blind, or if we literally see things upside down (my 7th grade science book tells me our eyes are actually flipping the image anyway – but I’m skeptical). What is important is how we live our lives. We should always be seeking the truth and be humble enough to realize that, in some areas of our lives, we might be believing lies.
This experiment also explains why some habits are so hard to break. Even when we know something is wrong, sometimes adjusting to seeing the truth takes time.
So how do you see the world? Are you seeing truth, or something inverted?