member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eidetic Image II

Image by Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman, and Joshua Sanes: neurons in the neocortex it confetti at your high school dance?...

In a fascinating post on his NPR science blog,  Krulwich describes the way a moment of import (and the image of it) will imprint itself on your brain, creating connections that will form a map for your future decision-making and personality development:

"So suppose I'm at a high school dance and I see a beautiful girl across the room, and I ask a friend, "Who is that?" And the friend tells me, "That's Maria."
Remember what happens to Tony in West Side Story? When he first hears her name, his brain starts to pulse "Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria..." It's the most beautiful sound he's ever heard.
A neuroscientist would guess that at this very moment, Tony's brain cells are changing shape, literally growing branches, firing messages that represent bits and pieces of Maria. As they fire, their tentacles are multiplying, getting fatter, their signals getting stronger, and a pattern is forming across tens of thousands of brain cells, all pulsing a message that to Tony feels like all the beautiful sounds of the earth in a single word...say it now, say it loudly...
Or, if you're not into Broadway musicals, let's say Tony's brain has created a neuronal pattern. Every time Tony thinks of Maria (which is constantly) cells in his head are linking themselves more tightly together: Maria has re-wired his brain."(Krulwich)

So, now I (Tony) am walking around with a snapshot of the event described above by Krulwich in my brain, which to me is related to: 
Maria, a broadway song I've just composed in my head, the longest note on my favorite instrument, the evening of a certain high-school dance, the guy who told me her name, the last time I went anywhere with that guy and the things that happened then, something seemingly insignificant which stands out to me about redheads, because he's a redhead, money--because his last name is Feurchace, which sounds like purchase--though i've never made that connection consciously--the color burgundy, which is the dress she's wearing, and so red wine, and the things that were said the last time I drank red wine, and the weather on that night, and the weather on this night, and the particular smells in the gym......right? So this never-ending game of free-association (I say tomato, the first word you think of is trench coat) is all subconsciously wired in to that image, the picture of that moment in a high-school gym and everything that came after and everything that led up to it (now seen as cause and effect). Your brain constantly refers to that image whenever presented with any new information, any situation it needs to respond to, etc, because it's an oft-used image and the more we fire together, the more we wire together. Every time we go back to that image, new connections are made, meaning that image grows in meaning, even though it's still just the image of me looking across the room to see Maria as her name is said on a certain sweaty, nervous high-school dance night. (See the whole map of the patterns in which your neurons fire together overlaid with this image.)
Here's where it gets really heady: remember that your main connections and patterns are all pretty muh decided (unless you do serious conscious work later) by your pre-5-yr-old mind. So, the image that's being created here is just an update of the one you already have, with more potent language and color. But it's a great moment for you to make a huge change, for a monster paradigm-shift. If you bust out of your normal behavior and do something really crazy, here, and follow it all the way to its conclusion, you may find yourself remembering your own life history up to this point completely differently. Your life-story no longer leads up to the "pinnacle" it did five minutes ago, at which time you never imagined yourself ditching your straight-As and list of after-school activities and campus presidential duties to grab her hand, catch a plane, and move to the Andes to train to be a curandero. All of a sudden, you remember things you had completely forgotten, things that obviously were leading up to a moment like this, things that make it clear that you were born for the life of an Andean curandero. There was that amazing time in your grandmother's garden, when she was showing you the most beautiful flower you'd ever--in your 4 short years on this planet--seen, and at the same time, a group of children next door were practicing a song in Spanish for a school play. There was that one time your father took you to the mountains to go camping, momentarily breaking from his otherwise completely work-obsessed life, the only time you traded more than three complete sentences. There was the time your mom danced you around the room in her burgundy evening gown the night she won an award for her work in the laboratory, and she was singing "I feel pretty" and you were blushing and happy. All these things had previously been forgotten, but you begin to remember them on the plane, with the love of your life sitting next to you, pointing eagerly at the shape of the clouds out the window to show you a grazing horned goat. When you land, you discover you have an amazing talent for locating mysterious and rare plants, and that she has the equally miraculous ability to make them all taste good. People line up for your cures. Why are you so good at this? Because your whole life was leading up to it, you were born to be this! Somewhere in the back of your mind, you've always been singing that Broadway tune, and you still are, right now as you search through the forest for the herbs. What made you think you were going to be a lawyer? Who knows?
You were fated to be this. But only since the moment you decided to be fated to do it, the moment that one snapshot became your life's map. At that moment (just like when you're dreaming, and whatever you're doing right then makes sense in the story of your life; yes, you're re-taking the third grade even though you already passed your college exit exams, but third grade is important, and it's always been this way), your present changed, your history changed, and your future changed. 
And in the next moment, it can again.



  1. My God, you're so right. I don't consciously believe in destiny, but unconsciously I suspect I really do. An example: I have never had an Indian (Vedic) birthchart done because, well I don't know why, but I am a believer in human beings making their own destiny, and so was my Guru. But I did a chart online the other day, which needed me to know my time of birth and the lat and long of the place I was born. Fine, looked it up on Google. I was absolutely thrilled when my birthchart told me I was born to be a writer, specifically a writer to do with art and the children's world, which is what I originally trained to be, (if you can call a 3 year degree course squashed into 2 years as training) a children's book illustrator. I have been trying to write a little picture book now for a long time, but was having problems with confidence, I suppose, as the writing part was new for me. So I went around for a couple of days feeling so chuffed, "I'm destined to be a children's book writer/illustrator, so nothing can stop me!" I managed to get quite a lot of work done this way. Then after two days, I got a bit suspicious, like, "Wait a minute, this is too easy." I went and checked my latitude and longitude again and discovered that the first place I had gone to had got it wrong by just 1 degree. With a sinking heart I did the chart again and saw that although everything else was the same, and I was still supposed to be writing, the bit about the children's world had been taken away and I was supposed to be a correspondent, or a journalist instead. Plus I now had an interest in the workings of humanity. I had to laugh to myself, because somehow I had manufactured the perfect way to spur myself on but it had not been fully convincing to me and I had found myself out. What was really interesting was watching what my mind did and the fast connections being made, as you describe exactly here, while I was in the grip of my fantasy about being driven by fate to do what I wanted to do. There was a feeling of relief that I had 'got it right', a constant stream of information about how everything had lead up to that revelation, many things. And then watching myself as that fell apart was also interesting because although I was initially a little bit disappointed, I was more amused with myself and my self-hypnotic capacities! Not quite sure what conclusions to draw from all this, except it's exceptionally childish, but I recognised what you were saying so eloquently in your post. Very clearly put! Telling ourselves stories about our lives with the emphasis in different places would be incredibly different stories, with different moments of truth. Maybe we all just watch too many films and have become addicted to these moments where you see all the threads of the film come together, and try to recreate them in our own lives...! Thing is, the credits never come in our own lives and we keep on receiving new information, which screws up the story line and the character development!

    1. what a fantastic story-- personally, i have the biggest problem with the 'nocebo' effect--i convince myself that i'm tricking myself, that my facts are wrong, etc...i would be the one in the clinical trials that screwed everything up :D...just like that, discovering there was one degree off, or something.

      but during those few days, you had your proof, didn't you? and then who needs the actual chart?

      what you say about the movies reminds me of a story i heard about the director pedro almodovar. his sisters say that they grew up in a very small village and had to walk quite a distance to see a show, and then on the way back, pedro would talk about what they saw, but his story would always end up being completely different--yet somehow it fit. that's a great way to watch movies, i think--still being active, to remind yourself that all stories are changeable...

      you've given me a lot to think about. thanks!

  2. That's really interesting that the future film director told his own, convincing, version of the story he'd seen, that his mind was accepting it as material rather than a finished piece. Or perhaps it was unconscious, and his unique personality just saw things in a way different from the norm.

    That's right, I had the proof and I didn't need the chart at all! It was a bit sad that I had to trick myself into believing I was born to do what I want to do : ) Actually, sometimes when I cannot decide what to do and I don't know what I really want, I decide on two outcomes, toss a coin, and whichever one comes up, I wait and see how I respond to it. If I feel an immediate sense of disappointment welling up, I take the other option. Yes, I know, some people can just make decisions, and know what they want; others, like me, have difficulties consciously knowing, or accepting, what they want and have to resort to tricks like that!

    I would be a nightmare in clinical tests too. I did a few psychology tests for the students downstairs when I was working for the Centre for Family Research in Cambridge, and I always found I was trying to double guess the answers, or talking non-stop about whether it was necessary to give a 'real' answer or a 'fake' one. Or asking them what the test was 'really' about. It must have been tiresome for them, but they had to put up with it because it's difficult to get enough people to do tests. And one of the tests was to do with morality, which is not something I have much to do with, and I caught myself answering the questions on autopilot, in such a way that I guessed a balanced, nicely adjusted person might do. I mean, the whole point was to get to what I really believed, but I could hardly force myself to do it. Maybe they had secretly wired me up and were testing my responses to being forced to think about something, come to think of it. Sometimes the test is not what you think it's about at all. I find I don't even like the word test.

    Okay, I'm going to stop at this point and get off your blog before I take up all your space! Thanks for providing such a thought provoking subject : )

  3. Not to take a decision but to forsee the future, what it is going to happen... I usually try a 3 points basket with a paper ball into my office bin..
    "A" will happen if I put the paper ball in and "B" will happen If I don't.

    If it doesn't happen what I expect, normally I change the rules of the game :)).

    1. ha!! that's exactly it: if you don't like the outcome, change the rules :D

  4. Very interesting post Zoe.
    I love your English.
    I love the name Maria :)).
    Reading, I remembered a TED conference that I liked a lot years ago. I went to look for it and I found it :)).

    1. it's the very next one in line for me :D thanks :)))