Okay, well, it’s Friday now, and to those of you who have the weekend off—as I do—I hope you’re looking forward to a good one.
It’s November 4th, 2022, and it would have been my mother’s 81st birthday, were she still alive. I guess, technically, we can still call it her 81st birthday, since we can certainly celebrate the day of her birth readily enough, even if she can’t appreciate the celebration. The time since her birth is what it is, no matter what, since no one we know is traveling near the speed of light. Also, probably more people are happy to celebrate the fact that she was born than celebrated my birthday, which was only a few weeks ago, and I’m still alive…in a manner of speaking, anyway.
I have yet to edit and prepare to upload/share my recording of my thoughts about time, and for that, I apologize to those of you who feel that it’s taking too long. My head has not been as clear as it might usually be this week. Sleep has been particularly bad, as I think I’ve mentioned before.
This morning, I woke up waaaay before time to get up, and I’m now waiting for the first train of the day. I didn’t go through the whole prime number evaluation of the time as I did the other day—see my post here—since I had already sorted that problem, but I did get on Amazon and flip through their Kindle book recommendations to see if anything looked interesting. I put a few on my “list” but didn’t buy any.
I did get a couple of Kindle Unlimited books yesterday about things like signal processing and circuits and some other areas I wish I had learned more about earlier in life, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll get very far in any of them. Perhaps I will.
I won’t hold my breath, though. That would be silly. If I tried to hold my breath until I had read any given book, I would not get far. Even if it were possible for me to hold my breath indefinitely, I would be dead long before I got into any book; but of course, it’s simply not possible for a person to hold its breath long enough to kill itself. The breath is controlled by the brainstem, etc., and it can only be briefly squelched by the conscious mind, not deactivated. It’s not quite as fully outside conscious control as the heartbeat, or the peristalsis of the GI tract, but it’s not up for veto, either, not without pharmaceutical interventions that would certainly interfere with one’s ability to read…and would kill one.
Heck, even the fact of being awake is not something over which a person has conscious control, believe me on that. You might say that this goes without saying, since to have conscious control of something, one must be conscious, and to be conscious is to be awake. But it would be nice to be able simply to choose to go to sleep and to stay asleep until some pre-chosen amount of time had passed. If it could be done, and I could thereby sleep until well-rested, I would do so.
Alas, most of the things we have to try to make our minds do are not as much in our control as we like to imagine they are. Even our very thoughts are not really ours to choose, for how could we choose what to think without first thinking about what the thing to think would be, and thinking about thinking about what to think, and so on, ad infinitum? Our thoughts happen to us. We can try to encourage certain kinds of thoughts and habits of thoughts, of course, by exposing ourselves to certain ideas, putting ourselves in certain situations, rewarding ourselves in some sense when we think about things we like to think about. But even that is quite tricky and fiddly.
I like Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the mind as being a person riding an elephant, with the tiny little person being the conscious mind, but all the real workings of the brain—the motive power, the strength, and ultimately, the decision power—being the elephant. The conscious mind cannot pick up and move the elephant wherever it wants, nor, apparently, can the mind simply climb off the elephant*. It is the role of the conscious mind to try to train, to steer, to reward the elephant when it does what the rider wants, to try to discourage it from doing what the rider doesn’t want, and to try to keep it from going on rampages that can be harmful to it and its rider.
My elephant has a very hard time staying still for very long, and it’s always getting me up and wandering around (figuratively and sometimes literally) when I’d rather be resting. It is a powerful elephant; I’ll give it that. But it’s a very grumpy, gloomy elephant, and it and the rider have frequent trouble sticking to pleasant pathways. Somehow, we seem to be inclined toward darkness and coldness, with occasional flames and smoke.
Anyway, I’m pushing that metaphor beyond all bounds of tolerability. My apologies.
I will try to remember to work on that audio file for thoughts about time, and perhaps to post it on YouTube this weekend if I remember to do so. I got a decent response to my more recent one on the fact that perception is not reality, and I even got a comment on YouTube, which is a pleasant surprise. The sound quality on this recording should be better than at least the first part of the sound quality on the last one, though I obviously haven’t really listened through it yet.
I hope again that you all have a good weekend, and that things go well for you in every way they can—which they will, since anything that happens is the only thing that could have happened, once it happens. Even if we had a rewind button, it wouldn’t necessarily let us change anything, since by rewinding, we would make ourselves the same person, in the same state, as we were the first time things happened to us. Unless what happened was literally random, it seems unlikely that things would be different on a replay without prior knowledge.
Until next time.
*In this, I guess, the metaphor makes the mind almost like a centaur with an elephant body instead of a horse. But it is just a metaphor, it’s not meant to be a literal, precise model of exactly how things work. And it’s a good metaphor.