5 May 2003
I'm in a music shop thumbing through the CDs, even though I don't buy CDs anymore. Then later I'm drinking coffee despite Starbucks being too expensive and the caffeine being a bad idea because really I should get some sleep, maybe in the park because it's sunny. It's an idle Saturday.
So now I'm in Hyde Park making faces at the swans and suddenly it all snaps into place -- the swans! Their necks! The whole evolution thing, the whole history of the swan encoded into each and every neck. And white, white because of... ah. Another one.
It passes and I blink myself back down to ground, then go and get an icecream.
Later that same day:
I've headed into the centre of town. Blue sky. Sometimes you notice things suddenly that have always been there. Like: the sun on my face. Like: I can feel the cracks in the pavement through the soles of my shoes.
It's pointless walking down the trampled valley that is Oxford Street if you can push your way up one of the side roads, shrug through some bollards, and weave round the buildings up there. The traffic's just as bad, there are still people everywhere. But you can smell the hot sun on the stone, and trying to head East against the tide of corners and dead ends is just fun. Following the inbuilt compass taps into some primitive part of the brain: direction finding across a landscape with a heavy bag and aching feet is for what we were made.
Somewhere near Tottenham Court Road I come to; Oxford Street isn't the African savannah. I'm not tapping my hunter-gatherer grain by pushing past middle-aged shoppers -- I'm just getting cross.
At a party that evening, when I really should've had some sleep but still haven't: At that party I could give you a dozen of these:
How parties fall into different types, the ones that fracture into kitchen and other-room crowds, the ones where you never see the same person twice, the ones where established cliques don't intermix, and so on. Societies flip-flop in the same ways! There are the same stable states! (...and so on)
Couples meeting and flirting. How people have done this through the ages, there's no particular difference with the way we do it now, and if the morality of the past looks odd from this perspective that's because it has to. There's a rolling dynamic such that we always look better than the past, but actually it's just a loop. Think of the vowels: a e i o u. And when the British crossed the Atlantic and the accent shifted from a to e, all the vowels shifted along one position, e i o u a. Rolled round the mouth. Same with bread-based products. American biscuits are English scones; wafers are biscuits. Whatever you take as the present, over the pond always looks doughier. And so it is with life! (...and so on)
How we know that stimulating the muscles of a face into a smile will cause happiness, and therefore we know that the notion 'happiness' is actually stored on the face not in the brain - maybe it's too hard to represent as neuron-patterns, and anyway the brain and face are so linked why have a representation and the thing itself - but the thing is why stop at the face? Input from the eyes is as much part of the brain state as the position of the facial muscles, so we - humanity - have a shared response/memory system: that is, the world! And so by shaping the world we gesture directly into the brain, without even going via the coding/decoding steps, and that's what magic is! Loopholes and short circuits in the external brain, change the mind by architecture! If you build a pattern in the world to obey the same patterns as universal grammar, would the linguistic centres of the brain pick it up? Could you then speak with solidified language? Has this in fact already happened? (...and so on)
- Shut up, they say, - Go to bed, they say (...and they're right).
Then eventually I'm in the dark on my own, in a sleeping bag, slightly pissed, having meaningless epiphany after meaningless epiphany, shooting stars and blinding lights, until somebody tells me to keep the noise down because my awe-struck gasping is keeping them awake.