Where's Here?

Are we there yet? When the kids were little they used to ask me this question over and over, sometimes even on short cross-town trips for errands. Sometimes I responded with an estimate of how long it would take to "be there". But sometimes when their repeated query became annoying I responded differently: No, of course not! How could we be there if we are here? If they persisted, so did I: No matter where we are it is always "here", and obviously "there" is a different place than here, so we can never be there because we are always here.

But this is a different question: where is here? When I asked my favorite search tool that question it let me know that Joyce Carol Oates wrote a book with a very similar name. That was interesting, but nowhere near the question I want to explore. Perhaps I should rephrase my search query: "locus of perception" yields some more interesting information (like a 2001 article in BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES titled "A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness") but still doesn't answer my question: where is the "here" that we are most familiar with?

My shoes are down on my feet and my hat is up on my head. I perceive sounds as coming from behind me or from the left or the right. My nose I perceive as being in front of me. There seems to be, for me at least, a place in physical space that I consider to be where "me" is; a place from which I reckon the location of everything else. Though that place must be within my head I want to be clear that this question is not about what part(s) of the brain process these perceptions. I merely want to identify the single control point from which I judge the positions of the things I experience.

This "zero point" is neither up nor down, left nor right, fore nor aft. My nose is an inch or two forward of this point, as indeed so are my eyes. My ears are an inch or two left or right of this point. It is roughly halfway between my chin and the top of my head. Here is the locus of perception that I have in mind when I ask "where's here?"

Obviously if I am lying on my back then up and down may be modified, and again if I lie on my belly. We adjust automatically (to some extent) to these changes in posture but it seems to me that my locus of perception still lies somewhere near the center of my head. There is still that place that I reckon as "here".

I expected that the experimental psychology folks would have published a bunch of studies about this issue. Surely I am not the only person to experience the world in this way. Do all people experience this in the same way? Does it matter which cultural environment you live in? Does your physical size cause you to experience it differently? Is "here" for women somewhere closer to their heart? If one is bedridden for long periods of time, or unable to sit and/or stand upright, where then is here?

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