A photographer would perhaps understand the role of contrast in a picture. Without contrast, the picture would just be a color that in itself, is meaningless. A picture is all about how one color makes a transition into another…how one texture transforms into another….how brightness fades away into the darkness. There are sharp and blur contrasts, but it is to these contrasts that our mind is sensitive.
And so, contrast is the life of a picture.
And it is not just with pictures, but with everything in matter. We store into our brain a world of contrasts-silence as opposed to noise, happiness as opposed to pain, tranquility as opposed to turbulence, beauty as opposed to ugliness. The latter is particularly important in artistic brains, for they have striking ability at defining beauty, in a holistic sense. Obviously, we differ in our sensitivity to this contrast. For some, shades of red make no difference while others are sensitive to an entire spectrum of red. It is this degree of sensitivity which correlates with how alive we feel.
And it is the discrimination of contrasts that we are losing, thanks to the pace of technology.
Technology has brought into our lives two dimensions- infinity and range. It has blurred contrasts as there is continuous access to what the brain qualifies as ‘reward’. I remember a friend mentioning how he was grateful to the internet because it helped him discover many like-minded people he could relate to. That is true, but the only problem is that when we meet ‘many’ like-minded people, the experience loses its value. In a confined and slow-paced world, the ‘few’ like-minded people we discover would have immense value for us, and they would be irreplaceable. Also, we would probably explore many facets of our own selves, thanks to the diversity of people we are forced to acquaint with. We would often be compelled to explore every person in our life to whatever depth is possible, and grow in a holistic sense.
When we lose sensitivity on account of the fast pace of interactions with innumerable people, we start seeking something higher coz the brain loses its contrast perception.
A state of numbness induced by abundance.
Our needs from life become very complex and insatiable coz we are in an eternal hunt to seek and preserve the contrasts that are vital to make us feel alive. A point off-track is that it also becomes an escape route when we battle with our relationships in real life; we don’t choose to deal with them.
The treasures are all in the lower brain (the limbic system particularly). It is a brain which is ancient, deeply perceptive and instinctive. Like animals and birds that can sense a storm much before it arrives…that become uncomfortable at the slightest unfamiliarity in their surroundings…that respond from instinct. Some of us have retained this ability at perception. Into this brain, we store perceptions from the world- what moves us, is stored deeper into memory. So in this brain, we have a world, tagged with emotions. That is the first step in giving ‘life’ to inanimate matter.
As the higher brain (cerebral cortex) evolved, awareness levels increased. For more and more of this emotion-tagged world was brought into consciousness. The awareness of the contrast between what our lower brain qualified as happiness and sadness, emptiness and fulfilment, beautiful and ugly, made our experiences rich and added value to them. And from this awareness, we learnt to create.
As long as we have the space to feel, perceive and then process, life will be rich. The tragedy is that the pace of life has increased to a point where we are losing this space. Thoughts are ahead of our perceptions. So much so that our higher brain often suppresses this beautiful lower brain. In the process, we will gradually lose most of it to ‘evolution’.
The next era is for mental illnesses, for the cortex-lower brain ratio will pose serious problems. So psychiatry will be a lucrative career.
And finally, there will be extinction of mental illnesses as humans evolve into robots, with a cerebral cortex that will take over completely. Highest degree of awareness. Just that it will be awareness of ‘lifelessness’!