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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Acoustic Contemplation

Up to this point, all my posts have been planned out in advance, and refined to within a millimeter of their lives, so I'm going to try something different today and just write from scratch in one sitting and see where it goes. Sometimes musicians make impromptu recordings without all the production trappings and just let them take on their own direction, and those can be interesting in their own right. It doesn't have to be anything special, but it can be a nice change of pace. Informalizing formality can be tricky, but probably everything's simulated to some extent anyway, so you have to pretend you don't know that and play along like you do with anything else. Like how you eat macaroni and cheese even though you know the orangeness of it doesn't really come from cheese.

Do you ever start thinking of something, and then after a while you ask yourself what made you think of that, so then you start retracing your mental steps, and it's funny how one thing can trigger another. Kind of a six degrees of separation in your head. That seems to work better for me when I'm in a quiet moment, such as just before falling asleep and my mind is wandering. You could also do it completely consciously, though being fully aware of what you're doing could hinder the process.

When I started the thought process, it was simple enough, just thinking maybe about something that had happened that day, or something I was planning on doing the next day. Or it could have been how people experience linear time differently based on their perception speed and their total accumulated time of consciousness since birth. One of those, anyway.

I'll be thinking about some dialog from a TV show, like NUMB3Rs, where they were talking about probability factors, and it will take me back to 10th grade math, and then I'll picture my teacher, Mr. Brandt, who was my favorite teacher, and then I'll think of when I saw him a few years ago when I went back to my hometown to attend my grandfather's funeral. Then I think of some of the people I saw at the funeral, and my previous associations with them, and a clerk at the grocery store who reminds me of one of them, and I think of the head of cabbage in the produce section, which reminds me of somebody from church. And then I'll think about standing in front of a large congregation of people at church, and picturing each of them as different types of vegetables, which will bring to mind Archibald Asparagus from a children's video, and then I'll think how fans at a professional basketball game will wave styrofoam tubes in the air when an opposing player is shooting free throws and this is something condoned by the league, but it doesn't faze the shooter because they do it continuously so that it blends in to its surroundings like the sound of a vacuum cleaner doesn't disturb a baby after a while but a much quieter door shutting would, but if the fans at the basketball game would shake them for a few seconds and then suddenly stop, and then start up again, and then stop, that would mess the shooter up, because he'd get out of his rhythm — the fans are inadvertently helping him get into a rhythm by allowing him to shut out the extraneous stimuli in his periphery... And then that segues nicely into the entropy of the universe affecting my granola cereal in the morning, turning the whole sequence into a tumultuous yet innervating existential sojourn. And so this is why I can't get to sleep that easily.

Many times it will take me probably 20-30 minutes to fall asleep at night, even if I'm dead tired. I suppose I could be melatonin challenged, but I think it's just that it's hard for me to wind down at the end of the day, especially when I've been thinking about so much.

I've heard that it works best when trying to fall asleep to imagine a blank slate to clear the thoughts from your mind. Yeah, like that's gonna work for me. If I consciously think of a blank slate, then that engenders several other thoughts along the same lines. Besides, to the creative mind, how can anything be blank or empty? The artist in me sees the blank slate and wants to paint something on it. Nice try, but everything means something. In my world, you can't suck the meaning out of an entity and leave only a vacuum. I do a nice Monet on the canvas, and then think of myself as a world-renowned impressionist, and where I'd live if I were that rich... Somewhere overlooking a large bay and where the only sound was a butterfly flapping its wings. And then my other home would be in the woods, with 200 acres of unadulterated timber surrounding me on all sides. Did somebody say sleep? I've got conscious dreams to pursue first. I'll fall asleep when my synapses keel over.

Meditation at least lets you cogitate to a certain degree. I've read that in meditation, you're supposed to not concentrate on a particular thought, but just let the thoughts flow. I can see the ambitiousness of this in theory, and for the most part I can do it. But then a truly interesting thought comes by, and I have about a quadrillion mental magnets that are drawn to it, like little piglets congregating to their mommy when it's feeding time. My brain needs nutrition. So much for that.

Have you ever tried to not think of something? For the next ten seconds, don't think about elephants. Remember, no elephants. Don't picture them at all. Ready? Go.... Thousand one... thousand two... thousand three... Hey, you're not supposed to be thinking of elephants. Anything else but elephants. You've got numerous other choices, so it shouldn't be hard to forego just one of them. Think about certified public accountants eating chow mein atop a pole in the Serengeti while dressed in mumus. Lots of other possibilities besides elephants.

People have asked me why I like rainy weather. Like I know my own psychological makeup and have Freud living in my shirt pocket... I'm a doctor, Jim, not a shrink. The best I can tell is that rainy and overcast weather makes the sky seem closer to me, and I find that comforting. Like a giant grey blanket covering the atmosphere and tucking it in all snug. So there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have trouble sleeping too, for the same reason.

When I was seven, I asked my mom where I was before I was born. "Nowhere. You didn't exist," she said. I made my friend Kiki lay down on the floor with me and I said, "Okay, now try thinking of nothing. You can't think any thoughts at all." But I found that even THAT was a thought-- to think no thoughts. "It's impossible," I said. "I don't believe I wasn't anywhere." Because it seemed unreal that my mind ever didn't exist.

I found it impossible to not think about elephants unless I very purposely distracted myself with another thought. After a while, that kind of concerted effort to funnel my thoughts just gets exhausting.

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