What does ‘Expand the Visual’ mean?

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Expand the Visual is not only the name of this site; it’s a philosophical take on learning and living. In common parlance, the phrase “see what I mean?” touches on the same sentiment. When we encounter new information, we are forced to see beyond the borders of what we thought we knew, and suddenly the horizon recedes a bit. Our world is larger.

The origin story of how I came to use the term goes back to my childhood. Growing up, I used to play a game called Hero Quest with my older brother. Nine years my senior, this brother always played the role of dungeon master, which is a mix between referee and storyteller. It was his job to lay out and control the board. In keeping with his duties, anytime my game piece moved to an area on the board that was previously unexplored, my brother had to ‘pause’ the game so that new pieces could be added to the dungeonscape. He always announced the pause in dramatic fashion, bellowing in a voice fit for a king’s court, “Expand the visual!”

 

 

Maybe it was the theatricality of his pronouncement, or maybe it was the simple fact that my brother was actually spending time with me, but either way, the words stuck with me.

So, what does that have to do with a philosophy of learning and living? I’ll show you. (Wordplay intended.)

Imagine you’re taking a walk in the woods. The scenery is gorgeous. You drink in green canopies, follow trails painted bronze by fallen leaves, and stop suddenly when a snake shoots beneath a log. This is nature in it’s mysterious beauty.

But, what if it wasn’t mysterious? What if you were so inspired by your walk that you read a book about botany, studied a map of the local trail system, and spent a few hours researching snakes? If you did that, and walked the same path a few weeks later, your experience would be remarkably different.

Where you once saw trees, you now discern amongst elms, oaks, and flowering dogwoods. The trail you walk is now recognizable in a larger context. You realize it’s northbound, and you know that it branches left and right a few miles ahead. You also know that snake is nothing to worry about; it’s nonvenomous and rarely attacks humans. Everything is more nuanced. Then, you ask yourself, “what changed?”   The trees did not change, nor the trail. The snake didn’t change.

You changed . . . and your world changed with you. This is what expand the visual means; it is the literal changing of reality through learning, philosophizing, and experimenting with life.

See what I mean?