If you need something concrete to understand the fluid nature of perception and its relationship to growth, look no further than the eyeballs in your own head. Emily finds the key right here:
#419, c. 1862
We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye —
A Moment — we uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road —
And so of larger — Darknesses —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —
The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the forehead —
But as they learn to see —
Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight —
The ability to see in the dark is not a commonplace skill. It ought to be. Most of us have the same machinery in our eyes that adjusts to the available light. The aperture either opens or closes to grasp as much light as possible in order to send pictures to our brain so we can navigate the terrain in front of us. One interesting thing to note is that there is often more light than we realize at first. Or so Emily says. Our eyes, clever, skillful, adaptive, just need a little time to find it. Even when there is no moon, no star, no hope, our eyes can find enough in this darkness (which is never as complete as we think) to make sense of things.
The larger darknesses of the Brain appear devastating at first. But in time and with courage our innate ability to expand our ability as needed to see things will find the way for us. The common sense way. Or that thread of hope that leads us through despair back home. We are pre-disposed to find hope.
I notice at the end that she admits she isn’t sure exactly how this works, if the dark itself changes or the eye’s ability to see changes. She says our eyes learn to see. We are given the machinery, but it has to be tested in order for us to discover the extent of its ability. We have to learn how to use what we have. And whether we are learning or the world shapes itself to us . . . the truth may be somewhere in the middle. There isn’t a clear line here, but the two parts on either side of it work together. There is something working for us. We don’t need to know how it works, only that it works.
Emily does point out that some of us are better at this than others. We may all have the same machinery in our eyeballs, but it is only the brave who go out to meet the dark. They put themselves into a place where their eyes will have to work harder. Their character will have to suffer the consequences of striving beyond what is known and familiar. Butting up against trees and other obstacles that strew life’s path. The brave ones are willing and able to absorb these blows because the reward that comes from pushing yourself into the dark is a greater freedom. A wider sense of life and one’s place in the world. Movement, trying, failing, adjusting, trying again. This is the way for a grown-up to get along.
Some, the cowards, avoid the dark, paralyzed with despair or indecision. The best of us befriend the dark. Engage with the mystery. Make an ally of it. Allow our innate talent for curiosity to override the fear or the pain. So that we may develop more fully into the adult that the world expects us to be.