Many of us have heard the expression, in the blink of an eye, to refer to events that happen very quickly. In fact, the blink of an eye is very rapid – less than 1/3 of a second. To make decisions that quickly means that we are trusting something other than logic. Many times in our lives we make decisions based on a hunch because of something we can’t articulate. Author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that this can actually be a good thing in his book Blink.
But is blinking merely a bodily reflex that we can use to measure very short periods of time? Think of what blinking does for us. Here is a short list of the useful functions of this milliseconds-long action:
~ Blinking clears dust and debris from our eyes.
~ Blinking protects us from sudden bright lights, giving our pupils time to contract.
~ Blinking spreads moisture on our eyes to keep them from drying out.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then blinking performs a vital function for our lives!
I once read a play by Jean-Paul Sartre called No Exit, in which three characters are in hell having a conversation. One fascinating feature of one additional character, the valet, is that he has no eyelids so he can’t blink. Suspended in an eternity of unpleasant circumstances, this man doesn’t even have the ability to measure time in minute ways like blinking his eyes. Creepy!
This is one character’s take on it:
“Your eyelids. We move ours up and down. Blinking, we call it. It’s like a small black shutter that clicks down and makes a break. Everything goes black; one’s eyes are moistened. You can’t imagine how restful, refreshing, it is. Four thousand little rests per hour. Four thousand little respites – just think! … So that’s the idea. I’m to live without eyelids…you know what that means…I shall never sleep again. But then—how shall I endure my own company?”
There are myriad actions and reactions in the course of a day that we take for granted. Our hearts beat. Our eyes blink. Our lungs alternately fill with and empty themselves of air. We drive a car to our destination and don’t remember how we got there. We decide to say yes to a blind date. In the proverbial and literal blink of an eye, we take in information, make decisions, and our bodies take us through life until that blessed hour when we get a restful, refreshing respite. On a good day, it shuts down and we can fall asleep with a smile on our faces and nothing on our minds. On a bad day, we get a break from enduring our own company.