Fresh eyes

There is an anaesthetic of familiarity, a sedative of ordinariness, which dulls the senses and hides the wonder of existence. For those of us not gifted in poetry, it is at least worth while from time to time making an effort to shake of the anaesthetic. What is the best way of countering the sluggish habituation brought about by our gradual crawl from babyhood? We can’t actually fly to another planet. But we can recapture that sense of having just tumbled out to life on a new world by looking at our own world in unfamiliar ways.

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (Allen Lane, 1998)

I love doing this. I am currently writing about how beautiful zebrafish development is, and remembering how much I used to enjoy looking at these animals down a microscope. Perhaps one of the easiest way to look at the world with fresh eyes is to look at something at a new level of detail. At just over twenty four hours old, zebrafish larvae are about two and a half millimetres long and almost completely translucent. Every detail of their anatomy can be seen in minute detail. At this age, even under a fairly low power microscope you can see the blood cells moving through the blood vessels as the heart pumps. You can trace the outline of the muscle fibres in their tails, and see every detail of the developing eye. I think this sort of exercise is just as good for the soul as looking at the stars or standing on top of a mountain.

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