In front of your eyes
A while back, FT published correspondence concerning things having been abstracted by the Little People, and how you could get them back by asking politely for them. My theory, if that’s not too grand a word, is that you are temporarily ‘blinded’ to whatever you’re looking for, and that the ‘asking’ – whichever form it takes – jogs you out of that particular mental cul-de-sac. I think I wrote to you some years ago about how I managed to lose the song ‘Good Vibrations’ from a Beach Boys CD on which I knew it was. Little chance of the Little People making away with that... and it was on the playlist, only that I was unable to see it.
There may be several reasons for this blindness. One is what the psychologists call the ‘search image’ (I believe). I found out about this before I knew of the concept, since I observed that if I looked for something – a book, say, or a box – I had a mental image of it, and if the actual object looked different (e.g. being upside down) I was unable to see it even if looking straight at it. Being four-eyed, I have wasted a lot of time looking for my glasses, and this gets worse with age. Last autumn I found a way to avoid this: I bought a set of brightly coloured drinking glasses from a thrift shop, and now I keep one of these in every room, including the bathroom and the hallway. I have trained myself to put my glasses in one of those whenever I take them off (well, almost whenever) and the time spent searching for them has been drastically reduced. On the other hand, I’m still looking for my best scissors, which disappeared in plain sight from a bookshelf several months ago while I was sorting some clippings. I might try asking for them... but I bloody well daren’t.
An amusing letter on this subject from Father David Sillince of Southampton appeared recently in the Spectator (18 Feb 2017). Here’s the concluding paragraph: “Anybody worried that St Anthony is overworked could follow the more full-blooded Spanish practice of calling on St Cucufato. You tie three knots in your handkerchief and say: ‘Cucufato, Cuc- Nils Erik Grande Oslo, Norway ufato, I’m tying up your balls; find me my [lost object] and I’ll untie them again.’ It always works, and he is never resentful.”