This is a test of your brain. (Don’t worry. You’ll pass.)

What has changed in this photo?

“Changed from what?” I can hear you ask.

Exactly! You don’t have any context to know what’s different. But I wanted you to see what I saw this morning so that I could tell you how marvelous your brain is.

This is the view from my car window on my way to get coffee and something immediately jumped out at me. Here’s a closer view.

 Don’t worry. You won’t get it yet. Context coming. How about now?

So, how did this heron under the bridge jump out at me?

I don’t have great vision, especially from the side. Peripheral vision stinks with glasses and I’m legally blind without mine. It’s not a party trick. I spotted this heron with no conscious thought on my part while driving by. I’m not showing off.

You can actually do this too. How?

It’s because we see with our brains. I know, it seems like we use our eyes but our brains play an amazing part in seeing. Here’s what happened.

I see this scene all the time. I’ve photographed it. I’ve stood and stared at the rising moon here. It’s a rest stop on walks, though not often enough. Without me knowing it, my brain has memorized this scene.

It’s not because I’m so smart. It’s because my brain is so limited. It memorizes what it sees all the time so it doesn’t have to look anymore, saving brain drain. There’s just too much to see. It’s trying to keep me between the curbs and from running my car into any shiny thing that catches my limited attention.

Survival seems to be important to my brain.

So, why did I suddenly see this heron like it had a spotlight on it? Because something changed. My brain is very concerned about things changing. Change is dangerous.

My amazing subconscious brain (yours too) compared the scene in storage with the new scene, all in the background outside my limited conscious thoughts. Everything was fine until something new popped up in a familiar place. Instant double take!

So why does it matter?

First: It illustrates the problems we have changing when our brain hates change, relegating it to the back burner in hopes we’ll just forget about it in the morning.

Second: It illustrates why new and shiny things get so much of our attention. Even when we’re just being manipulated by attention hogs and sellers of shiny things.

Third: It reminds me that the really important things in my life get overlooked. Things like my desire to change my diet and exercise habits, or unseen spiritual things, or priorities, or anyone out of my field of vision. Sorry.

Just because something doesn’t change doesn’t mean it’s not important. The same old thing is good when I got it right in the past.

But no matter what, I still get to choose what I think – even if I have to fight for focus.

What was I saying?