Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Eyes Have It...

"The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides."
~ Audrey Hepburn

I have always had a fascination with eyes.  Whenever I have been in a doodling state of mind, I usually doodle eyes.  When I am consciously working on a piece of art, eyes usually enter into the mix.  In my paintings that involve people as the subject matter, one of the first things people comment on are the eyes. I don't create renderings that would be considered 'realistic', but the eyes have a sense of life.  The paintings below are a couple of mine...they are older works, and the photos are not very clear, but they are representations of my style.

(Painting on the left is from my imagination; Right: Trent Reznor)
Without a doubt, the first thing I notice about new people I meet is their eyes. They reflect so much of a persons interior.  A key to my formation of first impressions.  (People often say that you shouldn't judge someone by first impressions, yet we always seem to form them.)

While looking around on the net, I came across some pictures of eyes.  Irises to be exact.  The colored ring of the eye from an up close and personal perspective.  Absolutely fascinating.  Seeing the chaotically radiating meshwork of Stroma (connective tissue fibres) in such detail was beautiful. So delicately designed, the formations look like tediously created works of abstract art.  Some even look like a colorful yet eerie forest of naked and contorted trees.

The delicately beautiful Iris serves as one of the most important features of our eyes.  Located behind the cornea and in front of the lens, it expands and contracts to open and close the pupil, in response to light levels.  It helps to protect the retina.  Around the edge of the iris are the 'Canals of Schlemm'. The canals allow aqueous (watery) fluid to drain back into our bloodstreams. Running along the canals is the Trabecular Meshwork.  It's job is to regulate the internal pressure of the eye.  Looking at the above photo on the left, the thin web of Stroma looks like it would break or unravel with one eye rub.  

What determines an eyes' color?  Another interesting feature of the eye.  Many people have their preference, and some even find someone more attractive because of the color of their eyes.  Resting unevenly on the lower, or 'basement', membrane of the Iris is a pigment layer consisting of two rows of epithelial cells.  Both are dark purple in color.  These layers serve as a barrier to prevent light from penetrating through the Iris into the inner chamber of the eyeball.  It is the pigment layer and the Iris that work in tandem to determine an eyes color.  If you have brown eyes, that means the connective tissues of your eyes' Stroma contain brown pigment.  The brown pigment obscures the purple of the pigment layer giving a uniform brown color.  Have blue eyes?  Your Stroma don't have any pigment.  This causes the purple pigment layer to come through a uniform sky blue color.  For albinos, well, they don't have pigment of any kind in the Stroma or pigment layer.  The resulting transparency makes the blood vessels of the eye visible.  This is why albinos have a slight pink color to their eyes.

"Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes."
~ Pablo Picasso

"The Eyes Are The Windows Of The Soul"

Thinking on the subject of eyes put me in mind of this well known, and oft used, saying.  How true it is.  I feel that you can see so much of a person within the life and 'light' level in their eyes.  They are such a reflection of what is happening on the inside.  What are the phrases origins?  Who said/penned it first?  The form we know today is more of a contemporary wording.  There have been (and still are) many variations of it.  Some say the first form appeared in the King James Bible (c. 58 to 68 AD), Matthew 6, 22-23:

22:  The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23:  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. Therefore if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

I suppose that could be construed as to having the same meaning as the eyes being the windows of the soul.  It has also been attributed to Dante, but I couldn't locate any specifics.  The oldest reference I found was a variant spoken by Roman Statesman Cicero (c. 106-43 BC):

"Ut imago est amini voltus sic indices oculi."  
Translation:  "The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter."

Lots of variations, but nothing concrete on when this particular saying, worded as it is above, began.

"No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone's eyes."
~ Paulo Coelho

"If you haven't cried, your eyes can't be beautiful."
~ Sophia Loren

   "Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder"

Another well known and frequently used saying that is also so true.  Everyone has their own idea of what beauty is to them.  One may see something that another may not.  Who can be credited with the origins of this phrase? Another attributed to many.  The earliest reference I found was that it first appeared in the 3rd century BC in actual quote was given.  Unlike the eyes being the windows of the soul, a word for word quote dates back to the Renaissance to English Dramatist John Lyly (1554-1606).  Another credit around that same time is to a wider known dramatist, William Shakespeare, and the quoted variation is from "Loves Labour's Lost" (1594):

" Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye"

Another variation is credited to Benjamin Franklin from "Poor Richard's Almanac" (1741):

"Beauty like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion"

Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), from "Essays, Moral and Political":

"Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them."

Some credit Irish Novelist, Margaret Hungerford, in "Molly Brown" (1878) for the first appearance of the modern (current) wording.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any specifics on the exact quote from the work.  Given time I am sure I could find more, but I will just give credit to them all.  I appreciate the form it's in today whoever was the catalyst for its creation and popularity.

"Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes."
~Jim Carrey

"No ghost was ever seen by two pair of eyes."
~Thomas Carlyle

"The Evil Eye"

From the time I was a child, I have always associated the "Evil Eye" with gypsies.  Probably saw it in an old movie, an old gypsy woman placing a curse on someone out of revenge.  The recipient of the 'Eye' would have bad luck, or be in a horrible accident.  They would spend the majority of the film running around in a panic trying to get rid of it before they die.  The lesson taught by those films is to never cross a gypsy.  *grin*

Belief in the 'Evil Eye' spans many cultures, primarily in the Middle East.  In ages past, it thrived among Mediteranean tribes and cultures.  It is said to have started in Classical Greece, and later moved to Ancient Rome.

Most people associate the 'Evil Eye' with mysticism.  Is it a real threat?  Can someone cast it on a foe for real, or are its effects all in the recipients mind? Is it just a way to mess with someones head, so much so that they create the horrible things that befall them themselves?  The mind IS a powerful thing...maybe it is best that they wear a protective talisman...just in case.  The class of 'Evil Eye' Talismans are known as "apotropaic".  It is a Greek term which means "turns away".  These talismans are designed with an image much like a wide staring eye so that the curse can be willed back to the caster. Of the examples below, the middle charm from the Middle East is called a Hamsa Charm. addition to showing it the staring eye, maybe it's saying 'talk to the hand'?
If you are in fear of the 'Evil Eye', then you might want to place a talisman on your children.  Many believers  think that the most common recipients of the curse are babies and small children, as they are frequently approached and commented on by strangers.  What can an individual unlucky enough to have the 'Eye' cast on them expect?  The most common causes are believed to be bad luck, illness, and even death.  One cultural commonality is said to be the causing of dryness.  Dehydration, and the withering away of the afflicted.  The cure?  Moistness.  (Gee, didn't see that coming.)  

"Fear has many eyes and can see things underground."
~Miguel de Cervantes

"The eyes like sentinel occupy the highest place in the body."
~Marcus Tullius Cicero

"An Eye For An Eye"

The full quote is "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life", and who hasn't heard this one?  If a person does wrong to someone else, the wrongdoer is punished in a like manner.  Dating back to Ancient Babylon, the phrase is said to be part of the "Code of Hammurabi", Hammurabi being the King of Babylon (1792-1750 BC).  The laws listed in the Code were written on huge stone tablets that stood over eight feet tall.  The Code was specific, the punishments falling under the "eye for an eye" philosophy, and being extremely harsh by the standards of today.

The phrase can be found in several passages of the Hebrew Bible, and is also found in the King James Bible, Matthew 5:38:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth"

"Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul."
~ Ovid

"The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart."
~ St. Jerome

Eyes are truly miraculous things.  So small and intricate in the grand scheme of our anatomy, and they give us so much.  We live in this world, and our eyes give us the ability to view it.  To experience a sunset, or study a work of art. The eyes might be the window to the soul inwardly, but outwardly they are our window to everything else...

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