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Monday, June 18, 2012

Incognito/Dethronement


It's Monday and the move really was a success. Thank God for Shay - he made it all look easy. Thursday found Catherine and me lunching at Blind Faith while Shay and helper did the big shlep. Friday Comcast came and moved the network and I took the day off. Today my network guy is here setting up my home office - working at the coffee table on Madeleine's computer for the day.  

But the weekend, arg. Friday Schaller's was fun - sang great as did my friends. Saturday voice lesson, just fine, but I was in a funk because it happened again! A guy with whom I had a budding relationship - Mike, the engineer/entrepreneur, jazz lover, published novel writer, went dark on me. Second time this has happened in about a month where someone has captured my interest only to disappear. In both cases, we hadn't gotten to the meeting stage, so it wasn't a physical attraction thing - I will probably never know what happened and for me the person who always wants to know everything - it's crazy making. Thinking I need to take a step back from this dating thing - cosmos' way of telling me not to be pursuing love.  Kaveh says two things must be in place: readiness and luck. I'm ready to love again, can't control luck. 

Finished the book Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman. Oh, my - I am speechless - don't know what to think and certainly am finding it hard to write about it - there is just so much there. Thinking it should be be an ongoing discussion between "us" - there is a lot to chew on and think about. And much of it is discouraging - I was hoping for something else within those pages. I was hoping this book would give me a clear recipe on how to reprogram my troubled brain - encouragement anyway that we have the power to change our thoughts and ourselves. What I got instead was the most humbling understanding of how little free will we actually have. I kept waiting for the chapter that would say, "Not to worry, you are still in the driver's seat!" And there were some nuggets of hope that I underlined and dog-eared the pages - I will revisit those and see if I can extract some course of action - cuz these days I'm all about change and transition.

The final chapter is called After The Monarchy, title chosen to depict the "dethronements" of man, the most recent being that our conscious minds are not "driving the boat". Other major dethronements in history have been Galileo's sun-centered theory of the solar system, James Hutton's challenging the Church's estimate of how old the Earth is, Darwin's discovery of natural selection, and the discovery of DNA which reduced humans to the equivalent of Lego pieces. 
And over the past century, neuroscience has shown that the conscious mind is not the one driving the boat. A mere four hundred years after our fall from the center of the universe, we have experienced the fall from the center of ourselves. In the first chapter we saw that conscious access to the machinery under the hood is slow, and often doesn't happen at all. We then learned that the way we see the world is not necessarily what's out there: vision is a construction of the brain, and its only job is to generate a useful narrative at our scales of interactions (say with ripe fruits, bears and mates). Visual illusions reveal a deeper concept: that our thoughts are generated by machinery to which we have no direct access. We saw that useful routines become burned down into the circuitry of the brain, and that once they are there, we no longer have access to them. Instead consciousness seems to be about setting goals for what should be burned into the circuity, and it does little beyond that.
It's that last sentence that I will cling to and think about.  And really it's something I've been dancing around, playing with for a while now. The other day I ran across my equivalent of Ben Franklin's evening checklist.  He was always working on gaining mastery over his life - writing lists of initiatives and then grading himself daily on how well he did, only eliminating the item from his life when he felt it was a new good habit.  I looked at my own initiative list and saw with approval that all the things I struggled with back in January were now pretty much rote: no martinis, exercise, diet, not communicating with Patrick, etc.  

So if free will and conscious choice exists it's the tip of a very large iceberg. If you're lucky, your iceberg is a good one - genetics, environment, intelligence, brain chemistry. You stand on the top and look out to sea and chart a course that you hope is a good one. You nudge and suggest and maybe even start a little fire to see by - you set a goal and hope the iceberg gets on board with the new course, you pray for good currents and prevailing winds and then hold on and pray.  

Challenge today is getting this book and reading it then calling me so we can talk about it.  I'm lonely these days and the move to the house is scaring me - extroverts don't do well in isolation. And it occurred to me today, that for some of you, you might feel caught up with me because you read me every day - and with that there is no need for further interaction.  But I'm not caught up with you! I need to see you and talk with you.

Hugs,
Sarah

I'll write more about this book over the next week or so.



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