Friday, January 30, 2009

Life as a series of parentheses

If I lived in a movie, the fluctuations in temperature, the changes in light would just be background effects meant to emphasize psychological turmoil. The waxing crescent moon in the sky, the flocks of crows in the fields, the rows and rows and stacks of books on sensation, perception, cognition, space, place, time, home, wilderness, pure science to pure fiction it's all too much.

The idea of too much is both beautiful and damning.

A few days ago, during a discussion of environmental ethics, someone happened to mention clear-cutting a forest as an example and I immediately recoiled in physical pain. Then during a discussion of fences and wilderness areas, I suddenly found myself standing there in the Painted Desert juniper in the wind and sun on my face and clay in my pores, I was actually there. Like vertigo, but real. My mind was so powerful that it defied all rules of time and space to transport my body. Then today, I was incapacitated by the words "laparoscopy" and "color," curled up in a tense little ball, yet in so doing found myself thinking detachedly "hmm, interesting that a mere phrase entered my brain, was computed and interpreted along some sort of neural pathway, associated with all sorts of abstract concepts, transformed into electrical impulses that involuntarily forced muscles in my abdomen and toes to contract." Then, of course, I thought, "hmm, interesting that my mind now recognizes that my abdomen and toes are tense, and finds that something to consciously ponder." Add to that the layer in which I'm now engaging -- pulling all of these thoughts out of my mind, stuffing them back into words and typing them out for some virtual audience.

I had to stand on my head (recognizing, of course, the sheer absurdity of that) to make myself stop thinking. Headstands or fresh air, distracted by clouds and cookies, there's too much to think about and the more that I want and try to learn, the less that my brain can function. Little sparks starting nuclear reactions, can someone think themselves into meltdown?

It's a poor excuse for an escape, but a little park nearby at least gives me the chance to stretch my legs, get out of the confines of this office and this city and breathe a bit, ruminate on footprints and turkey clucks. Last week it was too cold to carry a sketchbook (won't even begin to touch that subject, memorializing experience)(hmm "memory-a-lize," "re-member," as in re-body...)(see the problem?), so I tried a tape-recorder for the first time.

"Cold. Cold cold cold." was all I said, apparently, "Fingers freezing, breath burning," muffled through three layers of scarf, "cold but oh I needed to come, just had to come." Had to, needed to, voice breaking.


Tempting frostbite, internal monologue pouring out into the harsh reality of winter silence, but simply had to, needed to.

Oh, it's beautiful, fascinating, too much, I simply can't let thoughts feelings flow by without trying to grab and overanalyze them all, how do you turn the brain off? Especially when it's connected to the body? Which is physically philosophically part of the world?

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