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Why Are Our Eyes Drawn to the Horizon?

An imaginary place

Woman facing the ocean looking at the horizon
Our eyes often settle on the horizon.

Dictionaries define the horizon as the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet.

Of course, they don’t really meet, they only appear to. If you could instantly transport yourself to that distant line you were looking at, you’d find that vista as wide and high as the one you were just in, with a new horizon awaiting your view. The earth and sky never meet, never touch.

Why are our eyes drawn to the horizon?

Old sailing ships had what was called a crow’s nest — a barrel lashed to the top of the tallest mast. A sailor in it could sight approaching storms, enemy ships or land, sooner than those below. Keeping an eye on the horizon kept ships safe and guided them to shore for thousands of years.

The horizon is a visual resting point for our eyes. It gives us context in the landscape. It shows us where we are, in relation to where we could be.

The horizon changes as we move.

We are the reference point. If we don’t move, nor does the horizon.

There are also metaphorical horizons. ‘I want to broaden my horizons’ means I want to study or travel or make myself available for new experiences and challenges.

The same rule applies to physical and metaphorical horizons. We are the reference point. If we don’t move, neither does the horizon.

Hoping a white horse will gallop over the horizon to save us, or expecting that when the sun comes up over the horizon we’ll suddenly be a different person, is fruitless.

We can imagine wonderful things that might be awaiting us over the horizon, and spend our lives dreaming about what might be ours one day.

But daydreams and wishful thinking don’t bring new horizons closer. Only actions do.

The African-American writer and filmmaker, Zora Neale Hurston, said:

No matter how far a person can go, the horizon is still way beyond you.

That’s true. There’ll always be something new to do, different challenges to meet, fresh things to learn.

Living with mindfulness

As you stride purposefully towards the next horizon, moving from the known to the unknown, be sure to take a breather now and then.

Rest your eyes on the beautiful, beckoning horizon, then move your eyes to your feet.

Sense where you already are in the landscape and be glad you are where you are right now.

There will always be another horizon.

But this moment, this place where you stand right now, is good, too.

Pay attention to it.

With love, Marlane

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