False faces

The number of times that natural selection has pulled eyespots from its magic hat tells us that humans are not the only animals for whom a face is a beacon.

The difference is that we draw inferences that a bird, for example, would not.

Wherever we see eyes: that could be me. So many imaginary friends!

But maybe it’s only the backside of a click beetle, or some other prodigy of a trickster universe. The trap springs. The mask possesses its wearer.

Whereas a cardinal can spend all summer warring with its reflection in the implacable eyes of the house.
__________

“False Faces” was the name the Jesuits gave to the preeminent medicine society of the Haudenosaunee and other Iroquoian peoples.

As for my blogging and internetting, I’m trying to think positively about slowness.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

18 Comments


  1. I’m glad to see you have a new post up. Dial-ups are excruciatingly slow, but they still do connect. We’ve had to resort to it during power-outages, and have even managed to turn one of our macs into a router, so the other can connect wirelessly, even on a slow dial-up. Ah such wizardry.

    Love all the eyes, especially the ones that pretend to see, but never can. Why do those eyes remind me of a line I read somewhere over 30 years ago: if you had a telescope that could see an infinite distance, you’d wind up looking at the back of your own head.

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  2. You can pioneer the “return to slow blogging” movement. Good to see you showing your face online again. Keep your chin up.

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  3. I’d change my site name rather than return to dial-up. I salute you.

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  4. I like this post. Maybe it is because the subject of eyes is such a complicated and intriguing subject, especially in the context of nature – which I had not considered before. I would like to see more of your thoughts on this.

    Hope all is going well in PH, and that you’ve got some good stuff to post when the internet is not so slow.

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  5. I am reminded of the C&W song title, ‘How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away’! Good to have you back, albeit via the 20th century mechanism of dialup. If it’s any consolation, I’m on ADSL but right at the end of the line so the signal arrives in drips & then has to flow uphill from here.

    There’s a treatise in the cross-species false-eye phenomenon, isn’t there?

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  6. The eyes have it!
    Yeah, there’s slowness and slowness though…

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  7. There’s also various “eye-blazes” ranging from, which practically everything with a spine recognizes as some sort of warning or challenge.

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  8. One of the oldest blessings is the Aaronic–
    The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
    The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
    The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

    But I guess the Lord’s countenance doesn’t have that snappy click in the middle of it.

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  9. “I’m trying to think positively about slowness.”
    that shouldn’t be so hard. for an eyeore

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  10. Glad to see you’re back despite the slowness. I really enjoy you’re perception on what you see in the outdoors. It makes me want to enjoy the outdoors even more and peel away from my computer:)

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  11. Thanks for the comments! I don’t feel I really deserve them, since I’ve hardly been reading any other blogs since this started. (Google Reader is NOT the best aggregator for folks on dial-up.) But boy am I itching to post to Flickr and YouTube!

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  12. funny, you view the failure of high speed service as something that “started” rather than something that stopped. We all see it as stoppage. On the other hand, the via negativa is almost living up to its name.

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  13. I happened by here on the off chance that you’d resumed posting, Dave. Welcome back!

    I enjoyed your Chinese poems and the discursion on eye-spots.

    For a few months while I was in my early twenties I attempted to teach myself literary Chinese — but then I discovered music, and playing the fiddle became a substitute outlet.

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  14. Hi, Larry. Well, as far as the grammar goes, at least, Chinese is pretty easy for an English speaker. No endless lists of declensions and verb endings to memorize! Just, uh, endless lists of characters.

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  15. I checked a little while back and saw that you were going off for a while, so what a surprise to see this rich ribbon of words jump out on the screen!

    Click beetle… about a mount ago I was out at my university’s training campus in southern Chiba and I had a group of about ten first year students to take care of. We sat out on the terrace one afternoon, talking, when a click beetle landed on one of the girls’ heads and she screamed. I plucked it from her hair and then proceeded to place it on the concrete berm we were sitting on and letting it do its acrobatics. You should have seen the delight on everyone’s faces; they’d never seen a click beetle even though they are very common around night time lights outside. They couldn’t believe that an insect could do such delightful tricks!

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