The Magic of Magic Eye

For my eighth birthday, I opted to have a smaller birthday party, which meant about 3 people. I specifically remember what each person at my party game me for my birthday.

One boy had given me a video game, one that I played for years and years, called Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Another child had given me my first box of Hot Tamales, and I was addicted from then on. The third gift I got was a book called Magic Eye.

In the book were a series of boring looking paintings made of bizarre patterns.

“There’s a trick to it,” my friend told me. “If you stare at the pictures long enough, you’ll start to see hidden 3-D images.”

So, I saw in my living room and tried to see the 3D images. At times, I thought maybe I had seen something, but usually the image was fleeting. I tried everything to make it happen – I brought the book close to my face at the suggestion of my friend, and also pulled it far away.

I watched my friend do it, make the 3D images appear… but it didn’t help, because it was happening in his vision, not mine. It was hard for him to explain how to do magic eye… he said, it’s just something you get.

I stared and scrunched and scrutinized and analyzed… but I couldn’t get it. No matter what strategy I used, I always ended up feeling eye-strained and hopeless.

Until one afternoon, when I had almost given up hope. I reluctantly pulled the book out one more time and looked at the images. I figured that this would have to be my last attempt before I just put the book away forever. At this point, I didn’t even care whether or not I’d see the hidden 3D images.

I looked at one of the images, of fish in an aquarium, but this time I did it casually. Like I didn’t care.

And at that very moment, dozens of fish came off the page, floating in front of the book. A hidden 3D image. I finally got it.

Getting a Magic Eye is a weird skill that is hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it. It’s a very distinct relaxing of the eye that we normally don’t perform, at least consciously. It reminds me about all of the other concepts and ways of seeing that seem so obvious to one person, and so out of reach for another.

Also, Magic Eye reminds me that with some puzzles, the harder we try to break through, the less successful we end up being. Like a Chinese Finger Trap, or a box puzzle, the solution is often much simpler than we think.

In this case, I learned about the duality of desire: the moment I didn’t care about winning anymore, I won.