Is it the light wandering of thoughts, like dandelion fluff in a breeze?
Or is it the traversing of boundaries, like a butterfly migrating?
To me, it is this, and it is darker places to let the mind wonder, free and without limits.
This mix is what it sounds like to me.
- Claudia & Klaus by Valley Of The Giants from the album Valley Of The Giants.
- City Lights From A Train by Vector Lovers from the album Capsule For One.
- warp bay by 1 Yr Anniversary from the album 1 Yr Anniversary.
- Cirque Du Lac by KK, The Steampunk Orchestra from the album The Magic Lantern.
- rotor by mind of a squid from the album wish.
- powered by steam by Hangedup from the album Hangedup.
- ATTACK THE WAKABAYASHI by Kenji Kawai from the album Ghost in the Shell: Innocence OST.
- Sylvan Court by Precious Fathers from the album Alluvial Fan.
- Crawlspace by Caspian from the album The Four Trees.
- They Don’t Call Them Chihuahuas Anymore by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet from the album Sport Fishin’.
- Schindler’s Lisp by KUATO from the album Winter EP.
It’s nearly 4am, and I am still not asleep.
I suspect that it’s because there is so much to know, that I don’t really want to stop.
Perhaps this entry, more than most, will be reflective of my blog’s subtitle: “Things That Keep Me Up At Night”.
I once characterized sleep as a thief, robbing me of useful hours in which I could be doing something useful. I’m not the first to have called it that — I’m sure that Shakespeare had something to say about the matter in at least one of his plays — but it is a sentiment to which I often return.
I am a night owl, by nature. For whatever cruel reason, I find myself more awake at night, when I am precisely supposed to be going to sleep, than I am during the normal hours of wakefulness. I am often at my most pensive, most creative, most energized and focussed when I am struggling to fall asleep. It is as though the normal noise of the day were silenced, and my brain is suddenly able to fully focus.
I’ve tried just about every piece of advice to get to sleep. Sit and meditate (can’t make the thoughts go away!). Read from a book (never had a book that bored me enough to want to go to sleep, even if my eyes are burning!). Drink some warm milk (made me hungry!). Listen to quiet, calming music (if you’ve ever heard CAFFEEN!, you know that I love that kind of music!).
One of the things that has helped lately is to listen to recordings of thunderstorms. I have a theory on this: it has something to do with a combination of random, disruptive sound (thunder) amongst a white-noise steady rhythm (rain). So, my mind focusses on the steady rain, gets occupied with it, and just when it has settled in to a stable predictive pattern, BAM! — thunder disrupts it. My mind is occupied trying to piece together the pattern, when there is no pattern. Thus occupied, it has a hard time bringing up the other thoughts, and I can sleep.
I’ve noticed this type of fixation in other spaces. I can happily play hours and hours of Carcassonne on my iPhone. The game has enough randomness to keep me on my toes, but enough strategy that I can dominate it most of the time. (Tonight’s fascination was in beating all the AI opponents one-on-one in a duel; I finished that tonight.)
I also find myself sitting at the computer reading RSS feeds quite a bit. This, too, is a similar pattern: a fixation on the steady-state (the flow of articles in my RSS reader), but the interruption of it with surprising content. When truly fixated, however, I have noticed that I will skip over longer pieces, and simply mark them as unread, for later consumption. I’m skimming, and because I’m avoiding the major disruptions, I am locked into this pattern, and sometimes have to disrupt it manually.
The Internet is a big place, however, and the supply of new information practically endless. Thus, the danger of distraction by absorption into the steady-state flow of information. I won’t diminish it by calling it trivial — I’ve already set up filters and organization so that most of what I’m looking at is somehow relevant to me. But it isn’t precisely what I need to be reading.
Speaking of reading, I tried tonight to use reading as my soporific. I’ve been trying this year to really dig more into reading, and for the first four months of the year, was quite successful, having completed 9 or more books before slowing down (mostly because I “forget” to read). I have tried to make the presence of books more disruptive, however, by making them more present: putting them by my bedside table, carrying them with me, leaving them in places where I’ll be forced to at least acknowledge and interact with them, such as on my desk in front of my keyboard or on my chair.
(It’s rather amusing the tricks I play on myself to remember things. It’s a little disturbing, too, to realize that I forget so many things that I am forced to do these things to remind myself..)
The current book is “Universe on a T-Shirt” by Dan Falk. It’s about a decade old, purchased (as many of my books have been) on a whim, when it was seen, and then promptly placed on my bookshelf or in a box somewhere. I knew that I would enjoy the book, and I knew I would want to read it, but relying upon a list of books to purchase and read later has proven to be folly. (I have numerous lists, half-started and spread throughout every technological and physical device I have. I forget I created them, never reference them again, and stumble across them from time to time..)
The book is very well written, very engaging and has engrossed me entirely. I’ve tried other such books — I have an unfinished copy of Carl Sagan’s COSMOS that I tried to read last year, and a barely-touched copy of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, not to mention the audiobook version of A History of Reason and others — but this one has hooked me. Now that I have the grounding it offers, I may be able to read the rest of those; I certainly intend to try.
But as for helping me sleep, this is an utter failure. I’m currently on my third thunderstorm (instead of relaxing, I’m finding it invigorating!), and finished the chapter on Einstein and his theories of special and general relativity, having only stopped before starting the quantum theory chapter because I didn’t want to stay up all night!
So, finally, I turned to my blog, this neglected font of what I won’t deign to call wisdom. Finally, perhaps, a thousand words in, I may find sufficient sleepiness to get to sleep.
It is now a quarter past 4am.
And I can only wonder what will keep me up at night tomorrow..
Every once and a while, I seem to sit up straight, cast off the blanket of “normal life”, and look around with fresh eyes. During those times, I start to wonder: “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?”
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not entirely unhappy with my life. I doubt this is any real sort of “mid-life crisis”-induced thinking. Granted, the phenomenon is common enough to be a cliché, and one of the most astonishing things one realizes about one’s life is how many of those are true, even without consciously being molded into them..
No, it’s not entirely about any form of dissatisfaction in life that I put that question to myself. Rather, it is the strange notion of “age” and “age appropriateness” which I’ve never entirely cottoned on to.
(Er.. “to which I’ve never entirely cottoned”? Let’s not let grammar get in the way of meaning, shall we?)
I’ve always felt that age was really just a label, and really not meaningful. When I was a kid, I got along better with adults than other kids. As an adult, I’ve always related to university-age “kids” better than contemporaries. I’ve always bristled at the notion that I had “to grow up” or “grow out of childish things”.
I don’t think I fall into the cliché of “man-boy” — I’m plenty mature. Actually, in some ways I think it’s the prime of my life: I’m old enough, mature enough and experienced enough to have self-control, reflection, insight, intelligence, appreciate hard work and so forth, yet still young enough to appreciate fun things and allow my mind and heart to wander. I don’t have the phenomenal disposable income someone of my age typically gets from work, but that’s less typical these days for the majority of people anyway.
I think I’m caught in the in-between generation, the generation that started when the world worked one way — let’s call that the standard model — and a brand-new way, which we’ll call the new model. Continue reading
In the future, our brains will be merged near-seamlessly with computers…
This is the dream of an increasingly larger number of people, the nightmare of a vanishingly smaller number, and the unlikely possibility to the vast majority. For me, it’s all three, a statement of the desire to have magic-like powers as machines are finally transformed from external servants to entwined extensions. Machines are dumb tools, hard to use without training, inanimate or at best barely-intelligent materials with which we either communicate vaguely and clumsily, or we endure countless hours adapting our natural patterns and mental conditioning to accommodate the tyranny of atoms, the unyielding physical matter..
But the dream holds thus: we are entwined with the machines, they are extensions of our thoughts, able to respond with ease to what our true meanings are. We dream that we will not have to conform our internal, perfect visions through the crude medium of physical action or the crude linearity of vocalizations.
This is the dream of the integrated post-human, of the merged homo sapiens electronica, not a new idea but one which seems more visible now. We already extend our thoughts and memories and society out over the Web, that soup of information into which we pour our souls and drink deeply, sometimes intimately and sometimes with voyeuristic intention.
Right now, it seems embarrassingly primitive, sometimes. I’m communicating through words in a linear fashion, but behind these mad fingers and roiling brain is the perfect thought, uncrafted and raw but immediate and direct, perfect, and..
But wait? Is it perfect?
Is there nothing to be said of craft?
Is the miasma of my thoughts really better than the clarity of my words? Continue reading