Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Bounty of the Scrutiny: Seeing Is Believing

Ever been watched? Ever scrutinised anything?

My scientist readers and friends have made me think about the physics of watching and the “fact” (if such things exist any more…) that watching something does affect it. So whether or not you watch a sporting event, be it on TV or in real life, the rays of light zipping about the countryside and the vibrations of your very being have a bearing, however minute and untraceable they might be.

For example, when children are badly behaved for a parent, but well behaved in school- if the parent were to come in to observe the child at work, the parent’s very presence would alter the dynamic and the behaviour would not be what it would be if the parent were not there. Because the parent was there.

So by scrutinising things, do we change things? I have a vision of CSI’s Grissom, scrutinising his evidence with the caution at all times taken not to compromise the evidence. His investigations should not alter the substance of the substances. But sometimes, they do.

How do you feel when you are under scrutiny? Do you immediately leap on the defensive, or do you live and let live and let them calculate away? How much are you changed by the fact that someone is watching.

Someone once said that your true self is who you are in the dark: the idea being that if you could be seen, you would be different, but not authentic. Only away from scrutiny can there be any truth.

Ironically, we try to arrive at truth through scrutiny, but, by its very processes, it may alter the original state of affairs.

I am reminded of an episode of “Absolutely Fabulous” when Eddie and Patsy are getting morbid and stoned in the bathroom. One of them talks about when you are on a plane and you think that someone is looking at you and you  try to look your best – then you look round and they are not looking at you, but are asleep, “with their head slumped in your direction”.

So, even by not scrutinising someone, in this example, a sleeping figure can alter behaviour. That is, if you believe you are being watched.

In “The Great Gatsby” we read:

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

The enormous spectacles of Doctor Eckleberg just looked as if they were looking. But they weren’t. They were just there – neglected and left to brood. And even the brooding  was a metaphor.  Here, the eyes looking over the waste land had faded and died – a head, as it were, slumped in their direction.

In the novel, the spectacles become a symbol for the absence of God in some respects, and the judgement of God in other respects, depending on the perception of the characters. But they are a faded, empty advertisement for something no longer available.

In Hebrews in the bible, it reads:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4 verse 13

In this picture, the truth is known, at least known to God. It does sound like the “who you are is who you are in the dark” idea – but someone has come in and switched the lights on – and everything is, well , illuminated.

*desperately tries not to lapse into a discussion of A Streetcar Named Desire*

When the spotlight falls on you, what do you do?  Resist reacting so as not to change under scrutiny? Hide your face and push someone else into the limelight? Do you rise to the occasion and become a star? Or do you save the truth until you go home, and turn out the light?

It’s dark.

Who are you? (*CSI theme*)


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4 thoughts on “Bounty of the Scrutiny: Seeing Is Believing

  1. I love Patsy and Eddie! This can get dizzying after awhile because for the most part it is true that others or your perception of other observing you alter our behavior and then sometimes it doesn’t. Good question and good exploration, you bring things to the forefront and get my grey cells a buzzing, I like it.

  2. You know, I always wondered how we could be positive how atoms look, if we are bombarding them with electrons in order to see them. Isn’t that how the electron microscope works?

    Great post. Love deep thought.

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