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You Are What You See: A Reflection on Transparency

Text Marc Burillo Micho

Image Rachel Kok

All of human knowledge is, to an extent, based on our capacity to recognize patterns. It is the most fundamental of our survival skills. We are constantly unconsciously recognizing the similar within the different, attempting to fit the unknown into our pre-established web of meanings. Although I recognize the value of this skill, I often become frustrated by its inevitability; whether we want it or not, we constantly depend on patterns in order to make sense of things.

Thus, I present a metaphor.

Hyalinobatrachium olymbiphyllum, or as it is most commonly known, the bare-hearted glass frog, is a small amphibian belonging to the Centrolenidae family that finds its habitat in the moist forests of Central and Latin American countries such as Colombia, Panamá, or Honduras. Being extremely small, their length ranging between 20 and 30 mm, they are characterised by the light green and yellow pigmentation of their backs, and their more notable feature, their transparent undersides. A relatively common feature in aquatic species, transparency is a much rarer phenomenon on land; usually imperfect and only present in certain areas of the animal body. In the case of bare-hearted glass frogs, it is only at their translucid limbs their colours start to fade into the clear see-through skin of their bellies. There, they are completely exposed, allowing for all to see their rhythmic heartbeat pumping blood into their lungs, kidneys, stomach and so on.

But see, the irony of their existence happens to be that although their insides are bare for all to see, they are incredibly difficult to detect. Their transparency allows them to camouflage with the surrounding leaves and plants present in their habitat. It would only be natural to guess that their transparency leaves them open to prying eyes, it instead makes the small frogs better at hiding from them. I used to believe I wore, as they say, my heart on my sleeve, showcased and for all to see. I found myself frustrated by this, as I could clearly see it and felt exposed, no one else seemed to notice it. Lately, I’ve realised that rather than on my sleeve, I wear my heart on my belly, mimetic under my words, actively deflecting attention from it by pointing at the vibrant colours of the leaves surrounding me.

In a way, I find in the transparency of the small frog a realisation I wouldn’t reach on my own. It is so easy, so simple, to let myself live by the things and beings that surround me. My analytical self pulls back at the thought, as it realises the subjectivity and unfairness of finding meaning in such a thing. Yet, there is sincerity in patterns, as with the transparency of both mine and the bare-hearted glass frogs’ insides. They’re just there, for you and you alone to notice, and perhaps some other lucky and unknown observer. I have to remind myself, there is also beauty in that, in the solitude of particular meanings. I see myself in the small frog, and I see humankind in the pattern revealed by its transparent skin.

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