Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Seeing in depth

kw: sensibility, marriage

My wife and I were with another couple this evening, and we saw some interesting dynamics play out. We were discussing a difficulty the man was having, and a significant decision he has to make. We all saw the effects of various points of view, and the man and I kidded about how our wives were both such worriers. Then I mentioned that without their caution, we might be over-confident, that my wife had "rescued" me a time or two. There was no arguing, but we did see the effect of seeing things differently…a helpful effect.

Of course it is not always the wife who is the worrier. Sometimes it is the other way 'round. But it is quite rare for any man and wife to have the same viewpoint about everything. Considering that later, I realized something that has been gelling in the back of my mind for a few months. I could call it the social principle of binocular vision. I said recently to someone, if any two people agree about everything, one of them is redundant. I realize that there is value in having different points of view.

Try asking someone, "Do you see the same thing with both your eyes?" Most people will quickly say, "Yes." Some may wonder out loud why you are asking, but few will say, "No." Yet, actually, it takes a special arrangement of lenses and mirrors for our two eyes to see exactly the same view. Even looking at a photograph, our two eyes see slightly different distorted versions of the rectangular paper, and what each eye sees is a trapezoid; the two perceived trapezoids "point" opposite ways. The brain meshes these two trapezoids into a mental perception of a rectangle with a certain orientation in 3D space.

In most cases, we don't realize the difference. Sometimes a small object is wholly hidden from one eye but seen by the other. We have to pay attention and move our head around, or blink one eye, to perceive the parallax that our brain uses to sense depth. So it is with the different situational viewpoints of men and women. Sure, as to worrying or caution, some men are more prone to worry than some women, but in many important ways, men and women look at social situations differently.

Sadly, this often leads to tension in a man-woman relationship, particularly a marriage. It is the main reason for the nearly 50% divorce rate for first marriages. A man and a woman are like two eyes, spaced a distance apart, such that they will never see everything the same way. (And let those who'd say I am being Politically Incorrect go jump in the lake.) This isn't bad, it is good. It is very good. It can be a source of great strength for a couple, if they are willing to use their different viewpoints to triangulate the situation and "merge" their vision into a 3D view that is more accurate than either could achieve alone.

A husband and wife who cannot communicate are at a disadvantage. They are like someone blind in one eye. It is quite dangerous for someone who has only one eye to drive. It can be risky just to walk around! You need different ways to discern distances, and they are all less effective than binocular vision.

This synergy between the viewpoints of men and women underlie my sadness about "gay marriage". I do not make an argument from tradition. As a matter of fact, there have been tribes or societies in the past that allowed a woman to have a wife, though very, very few that allowed a man to have a husband. In all cases, these tribes or societies have passed from the scene. A man-man or woman-woman "marriage" is at a disadvantage. True, there will still be different viewpoints, but a certain, wider view is simply unavailable to them. It is like a head with two left eyes or two right eyes, jammed right together. No effective binocular vision. Well-integrated couples (that's about half of them, folks!), couples that can communicate effectively, can see things that single folks and same-sex couples simply cannot see, in a social sense. It is the way the human animal works.

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