On the Upside of Down


(NORTHERN IRELAND Belfast) The River Lagan at sunset. (Photo taken by the author.)

One of the things I love most about Europe: the possibility of mistaking water for sky.

Perhaps if I’d learned how to do a headstand then, in those years when I’d wandered that particular continent, the illusion would have been complete. I’d be upside down, the world would be upside down, and apart from the giddy rush of blood to my head, all would have seemed perfectly alright.

Consider that it’s much easier to stand on one’s head than on one’s feet. As the Ashtanga yogi and writer Gregor Maehle once pointed out: one’s center of gravity is lower, and the arms, elbows, head and hands provide a much larger base than one’s feet.

Consider also that the images our retinas receive are completely upside down. Our brains have to reorient what we actually see to allow us to perceive things the “right side up.”

In other words, we have a capacity to tolerate being topsy turvy. We have to work to stay upright; we have to work to see upright. We’re just so inured to the habitual strain that we forget the effort even exists.

What if we could be okay with not knowing which way is up?

What a revolutionary thought.

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