In birdwatching, serial images viewed through a flawed homemade lens evoke a restless, roving eye, the uncertainty of navigating by flashlight, and the thrill of spying through a keyhole. The close range at which we examine wisps of down and furls of feather suggest scientific curiosity and the myopia of the microscope.
I’m thinking about how light projects a circle of illumination into the eye and into a camera, and how seventeenth-century scientist and mathematician Johannes Kepler pointed out that human eyes work much as cameras do. Kepler showed that human vision isn’t any sort of direct communion between objects and our eyes, but instead the result of light bouncing randomly off objects and “painting” images on our retinas. In other words, we see images—not people or objects or their essences. We see light.
Descartes responded by asking: if we can only experience projections on our retinas, how can we know what exists outside our eyes?
I’m not sure, but I think it’s a bird.