What do you see with?

No, don't point at your eyes. Point at your brain. Or, maybe, if you've been reading Le Petit Prince lately, point to your heart. (I don't; my heart sees things that aren't there - so does my brain, come to think of it. I have issues.) Still, this is fascinating. And lately I've been experimenting with this concept of using the brain to see with my eldest two daughters, on bike rides back home from the dojo through the dark.

See, our path takes us from nice clear marked bike lanes with street lights overheard to the Experimental Farm then one last short bit on two busy and extremely well-lit streets then home. It's about 5 km in total, and more than half of it is on the Farm as well as the equally unlit locks that cross the Rideau Canal between Carleton University and the Farm itself.

We do have head lamps with us when we do that, of course. You want to be able to turn them on in a hurry if/when you need them. But we don't turn them on. Instead, I tell the girls, we focus our minds on the task of seeing without lights.

The path through the Farm is a very familiar one to all of us. We know where it goes, where it turns, and so on. And we're in the middle of the capital of a G7 country; it's never really fully dark, even on moonless nights. There is more than enough light pollution in this city to give us a fair bit of orange glow wherever we go. But the kids at first found it very spooky. So much so that they almost panicked. But I insisted that they tell their brains to relax and just see what they could see then fill in the dark spots. I insisted they could bike in the dark without getting lost and without bumping into anything. (It helps that the Farm is closed to car traffic at night; it's actually a pretty safe if unusual thing to do, don't you go get funny ideas.)

It took them a few tries to get the hang of it, which gave me plenty of opportunities to talk about how humans evolved to be able to see at night and how if we just get out of the way and let our brains do the work we'll be able to see just fine. Obviously not as clearly as in the light of day, but clearly enough to navigate. It's a very useful survival skill and I thought it was high time they learned it in a controlled manner. Now they boast to their friends about being able to find their way home at night without lights, so yay mom.

Better not psychoanalyze this...

Should you do what you love, or what you're good at?