A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Morning Papers

After my morning perusal of the “papers,” actually these days an electronic stroll from my local online newspaper to the exotic offerings of New York, London, New Delhi, and other points east, west, north and south; after this eclectic reading (and some listening and watching) I have come away in need of a metaphor for the state of mind obtained (though, not willingly).  The best I’ve come up with – and for which I will settle – is a person trying to repair an old spring driven watch while being set upon by irresistible distractions.  Imagine the person, magnifying loop in place (tunneling the vision to the important detail), bent to the task of delicately arranging the gears, growing a comprehension of the complexities of the timing and balance of events that move the hands to tell the time, and doing this work with bees, horse flies and grasshoppers buzzing and hopping around the table; and a large dog tugging at one leg, while various other creatures of underdetermined lethality slither in and out of close and closer proximity. 

I am by inclination and training (I suspect in response to inclination) a scientist.  Epistemological design and statistics actually thrill me: that cleverly organizing events, measuring carefully and thoughtfully, and the respectful analyses of the numbers can reveal the processes behind the events is a thing of beauty.  But I am also by inclination and practice an artist (having spent most of my life struggling to make images, both evocative and beautiful). I like my science beautiful.

I also like my news to make sense; it does not.  And so I have to write my own.  This morning I read: that some person in Pasadena is having the local Pasadena news stories written in India, “all” about Barry McCaffery, Mumbai, Obama’s advisor and cabinet picks, troubles that Scotland Yard is having with the arrest of an MP, John Travolta’s egotism (I still can’t believe that is the same person from “Welcome back, Kotter”), Thailand, will India attack Pakistan, and more. 

The human cognitive process wants to put all of its experiences together into a coherent whole – like back when we lived in a ecologically coherent world where events might be distant in both time and space but ultimately related in ways that benefited humans to know about.  Its like seeing the teeth on the timing wheel of the watch and realizing that they look like the spines on the grasshopper legs or thinking that Travolta’s egotism might have something to do with McCaffery’s egotism.  But this just starts to get crazy and crazier making.  

It is no wonder that so many people who write this stuff are nuts. Even if you try to be thoughtful, honest and deeply insightful; how can you be when the information you are trying to process is stirring your brain like a chemical lobotomy? 

Ok, now I feel better, but I still want it all to make sense.  And deep down I know that it all does if I can fight through the craziness long enough to see it


Anonymous said...

Gleaning external meaning has been difficult as of late. November is traditionally a month of hunkering down, sealing the house, root veggies and potatoes properly stored. We're robbed of that gaining of space by the amassed datasphere.

I spent this past week in a house where two newspapers were delivered every morning. And we read. And drank coffee.

Tunnel vision occurs at the expense of the superfluous periphery of your hyper-focused attention. Superfluity occurs at the expense of focused necessity. Focused necessity occurs at the expense of the datasphere's insanity.

James Keye said...

If I understand you correctly, then you understand me correctly.