March 17, 2004

Profound Spinmeister

The girls had gotten up from supper and were starting to mill about. There is often an uneasy last few minutes of a meal during which the girls are wondering about whether they should begin asking for chocolate or some other sweet end-of-meal treat.

Sculpture of SednaIn a last-ditch effort to keep them at the table to finish the meal, Maggie asked Katherine what she knew about the new “planet” that’s been in the news recently. So the conversation took a turn into astronomy. We discussed Sedna1, Quaor, Pluto, stars, planets, the Oort cloud, the Kuiper belt and related stuff. Then Katherine passed along some information about spinning.

“Billy2 says that if you spin around and around, and then stop, you can feel the Earth turning.”

Maggie and I looked at each other, and she replied to Katherine as I shook my head.

“Do you think that’s true?”

“No,” Kit replied. “I think that he’s just feeling that he’s dizzy.”

I couldn’t help but think about Billy and what his imagination was doing under the influence of unusual inner-ear stimulation. On the one hand, it reminded me a bit of hearing the sea in a seashell when you hold it up to your ear. You get some sort of sensory input and you think “I’ll put this into context� it’s a seashell, so I’m hearing the sea!” And, looking at it that way, some friend or relative probably told it to him in the same vein, as a fun little fiction to go along with the natural childhood activity of spinning yourself senseless.

But the stronger image that came to mind was of people I’ve known who have a tendency to get into some altered state of consciousness (via exhaustion, booze, drugs, dreaming, endorphins, really good ice cream, what-have-you) and choose that moment to have what they think is some profound thought or connection to the universe rather than realizing that what’s happened is that they’ve turned off the filter that evaluates their thoughts for whether or not they make any sense whatsoever. The distinction is missed by the vast majority of people.

I wondered if Billy was that sort of person, experiencing the grade-school equivalent of this phenomenon. Only time will tell.

1 Sedna is the most distant object known to be part of our solar system. Other than comets, I assume.

2 Billy’s name changed to protect the innocent.

Posted by James at March 17, 2004 9:31 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links
Comments

hello

followed a link from dave grenier here....

i'm curious: are you asserting that when someone is in an "altered state of consciousness" they are somehow not connected to the universe or are incapable of conceiving profound thoughts?

interesting blog, btw

cheers!

Posted by: jam at March 17, 2004 10:32 AM

I'd assert that people are no more or less connected to the universe when they are drunk than when they are sober. But they ar emore likely to say something silly.

I guess the classic example would be the "What if we're all specks in some atom of some other universe?"

Nothing wrong with asking the question, but it apparently sounds a lot better when you're drunk.

Of course, many people get hung up on things without even being the lest bit tipsy. Amusing questions like "Would a fly without wings be called a walk?" are perpetually sent around in email. Amusing? Sure. Worth a second look? Nah.

I'll concede one thing to intoxication by various means. It tends to loosen lips. So, with all the drivel there may be an unfiltered "brainstorming" effect going on.

But you don't become a shaman after downing a couple of forties.

Posted by: James at March 17, 2004 11:40 AM

Nice redesign!

Speaking of getting drunk, free corn-beef and cabbage at the Penalty Box.

Posted by: David Grenier at March 17, 2004 12:35 PM

Thanks. The color's are goint to change, and the design is evolving. I've got to get a logo, I think.

I didn't get any Irish food today, except for vitamin G (Guinness).

Posted by: James (DrM) at March 17, 2004 10:29 PM

true, forties do not a shaman make....

but "when they are drunk than when they are sober....they ar emore likely to say something silly."? i don't know... i find i encounter many many sober people in my everyday who spout off all manner of insane rubbish...

i guess what i really wanted to say before is that most people are in an altered state of consciousness all the time, whether high on life, hungry as a horse, sleepy, grumpy, tired, in pain, horny as a toad, or whathaveyou - the whole postulation of a "normal waking state of consciousness" is a difficult thing to nail down

that said, i get more the feeling that you are relating an annoyance with barfly philosophers... despite my wanky postulations above, i'm down with that - nothing like having someone spew the facts of life at you while crocked on cheap beer

Posted by: jam at March 18, 2004 10:35 AM

I think we agree. People say silly things all the time AND barfly philosophers are annoying.

I can drink to that.

Posted by: James at March 18, 2004 11:10 AM

Sláinte!

Posted by: jam at March 19, 2004 10:02 AM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved