Mind Shadows

10/9/06

We have lost the deterministic thread of the universe right here, inside ourselves (Michael Frayn)



  • "Psychoanalysts see dreams as the working out of some inner conflict. And one can imagine how they might be used as texts into which such interpretations could be read. But then random ink blots can be used in the same way without anyone, even a psycho-analyst, thinking that the meaning read into it by the patient was unconsciously put there by the person who scattered the ink. You might think, likewise, that when a dream seems to offer a practical solution to a conscious problem, it's because the dreamer reads a solution arrived at by other means, even if unconscious ones, into the ambiguous material on offer.

    Psychologists have proposed various mechanistic explanations, usually by analogy with computer practice. They have suggested that it is a kind of mental housekeeping, in which the brain sorts the day's information, deleting unwanted files and backing up others. Some elements in dreams, it's true, do seem to relate to the experiences of the day just ended. Most (of mine, at any rate) don't. They relate, if to any experience at all, to events in the remote past. Usually they seem more like pure fiction. And far from suggesting any parallel with orderly filing, dreaming seems much more like the breaking open of files, both familiar and unfamiliar, and the chaotic scattering of their contents."

  • "Isn't there, at the point of origin of all our actions, all our thoughts, some such element of autonomy? The moment of creation always occurs a fraction of a second before the conscious mind discovers the created material, takes it over, and organises it into coherence."

  • "This is the heart of the mystery, this is what is so difficult to examine: the moment when the action takes shape inside your head. Often at this very point, in fact, just as the plot delivers the great scene, the dream seems to lose interest in itself and peter out. The important events that have been set in motion never quite materialise. We fall from the high building--but never hit the ground. In the brief instant of terror before I awoke, in that dark courtyard off Marylebone Road, I had time to note, with surprise and interest, that in the midst of all this overwhelming mass of sensation I couldn't locate any actual physical pain."

  • "To Descartes the 'cogito' seemed apodictic--so much so that it could serve as the foundation stone for the construction of a world. But the word begs all the questions we have been looking at; the first-person construction conceals more than it reveals. Even if it's certain, from the act of doubting (which is what constitutes the thinking in cogito), that thinking of some sort is occurring, the authorship of that thinking remains an open question. My thoughts think themselves, and from that thinking the author has to be constructed, as dubious an entity as the argument suggests that everything else might be. The life of the family is the life of its members, but the lives its members lead are their own. Without the family--no members. Without the members--no family."

  • "Then again, maybe there is an element of pure randomness in the apparently unlocatable deciding force at the heart of dreaming (and of all our thinking). Maybe this generative principle, which is both I and not-I, stems from the quantum behaviour of individual particles in the system, deflecting and shaping the throughput of information from external sources as fundamentally and massively as the random release of the beta-particle affects the state of Schrödinger's cat."
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