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"This email is intended for Mr Glen MacDonald (I hope that this is the correct spelling of your name)", it begins, which sounds more than a little like it will go on to hope that my day is filled with great blessings and explain that intimate trust will be placed in me to assist with the liberation of his late father's fortune from rebel banking purgatory in Liberia or Togo or somewhere.  

But no, it's actually an otherwise entirely earnest email about my music-review column. Hopes notwithstanding, though, "Glen MacDonald" is not the correct spelling of my name. Even leaving aside the ambiguous interaction of correctness and capitalization, my first name has two "n"s, and my surname has only one "a". If you only knew my name from hearing it said aloud, you'd have no way at all to know "Glen" from "glenn", and no better than even odds at distinguishing "MacDonald" from "mcdonald". But this writer, preemptively apologetic in case they've tragically guessed incorrectly, is writing to me at an email address published at the bottom of issues of my column. For those of you who do not happen to have committed the TWAS footer format to memory, it looks like this:  

Copyright © 1995-2005, glenn mcdonald
Feedback to: twas@furia.com

So not only was the correct spelling of my name displayed a tiny fraction of an inch away from the email address which this writer has transcribed correctly, but presumably this is how they have any idea what my name is in order to be in what they think is a position to guess at its spelling.  

I point this out not in anger but in fascination. This writer has looked directly at the correct spelling of my name, and by the time they have switched screens to start typing a note to me, they not only have already lost track of the spelling, but even have lost track of why. They have probably, and if so almost involuntarily, processed the image "glenn mcdonald" into existing memory schema for "Glen" and "MacDonald". These schema not only encode those particular primary spellings, but also contain metadata for uncertainty (thus the awareness of doubt) and probably even the related implicit assumption that the values were initialized from hearing, rather than sight. Our perceptions of the world are so influenced by our expectations and prior experiences that much of the time it's arguably misleading to say that we are seeing at all. Our eyes are receiving light, but our brains are matching patterns. I suspect that for all practical purposes, the writer has physically seen my name in precise letters, but mentally experienced hearing it in ambiguous syllables.  

We see things not as they are, but as we are. Actually, it's worse than that. Except in the rarest of moments when we are super-humanly self-aware, we experience not what is, but what we have been. And thus perhaps the strangest inescapable truth: the key to clearer awareness of the world is more comprehensive awareness of self.
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