The Watchers

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
we are all made into the internet's eyes and our job is to turn this world into that world by photographing it and filming it and uploading the data.
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
Schiller wrote of a “watcher at the gates of the mind,” who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind “the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.” He said that uncreative people “are ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators… regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea that follows it; perhaps in collation with other ideas which seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.”
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
> Suppose an eight-year-old writes a story about being chased down a mouse-hole by a monstrous spider. It’ll be perceived as “childish” and no one will worry. If he writes the same story when he’s fourteen it may be taken as a sign of mental abnormality. Creating a story, or painting a picture, or making up a poem lay an adolescent wide open to criticism. He therefore has to fake everything so that he appears “sensitive” or “witty” or “tough” or “intelligent” according to the image he’s trying to establish in the eyes of other people. If he believed he was a transmitter, rather than a creator, then we’d be able to see what his talents really were.
> We have an idea that art is self-expression—which historically is weird. An artist used to be seen as a medium through which something else operated. He was a servant of the God. Maybe a mask-maker would have fasted and prayed for a week before he had a vision of the Mask he was to carve, because no one wanted to see his Mask, they wanted to see the God’s. When Eskimos believed that each piece of bone only had one shape inside it, then the artist didn’t have to “think up” an idea. He had to wait until he knew what was in there—and this is crucial. When he’d finished carving his friends couldn’t say ‘I’m a bit worried about that Nanook at the third igloo’, but only, ‘He made a mess getting that out!’ or ‘There are some very odd bits of bone about these days.’ These days of course the Eskimos get booklets giving illustrations of what will sell, but before we infected them, they were in contact with a source of inspiration that we are not. It’s no wonder that our artists are aberrant characters. It’s not surprising that great African sculptors end up carving coffee tables, or that the talent of our children dies the moment we expect them to become adult. Once we believe that art is self-expression, then the individual can be criticised not only for his skill or lack of skill, but simply for being what he is.
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
What is this “watcher at the gates of the mind” that crushes spontaneity, originality, and fun? A small study recently concluded that an explanation will be perceived as more satisfying if it has a neuroscience angle, even if the neuroscience angle is completely non-probative of its claims. So I am happy to say that I have a neuroscience explanation to offer: the censorious “watcher” likely lives in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

An even smaller study, for example, studied the brains of rappers, both reciting memorized verses and “freestyling”—inventing new lyrics on the fly. Under fMRI, subjects freestyling showed decreased activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Another study, measuring jazz musicians either playing previously memorized music and improvising new music, demonstrated the same pattern of activation: decreased DLPFC activity in improvising musicians.

So we have a candidate for the watcher at the gates of the mind. Arne Dietrich named this the “transient hypofrontality hypothesis,” proposing that what altered states such as “dreaming, endurance running, meditation, daydreaming, hypnosis, and various drug-induced states” have in common is a pattern of inhibition in the prefrontal cortex. Group rituals, especially rhythmic rituals (like endurance running), have the power to inhibit ordinary self-conscious social rumination and provide pleasurable ego-loss as well as social connection and bonding.
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
Imagine your river of Babble at its source, the subconscious: a foaming, ugly-colored river littered with half-formed concepts, too wild to navigate, too dirty to drink from. A quarter mile across, the bellow of the rapids is deafening.

Downstream, you build a series of gates to tame the rushing rapids and perhaps extract something beautiful and pure.

The First Gate, conscious thought, is a huge dam a thousand feet high and holds almost all the incoming thoughts at bay. Behind it, an enormous lake forms, threatening to overflow at any moment. A thick layer of trash floats to the top of this lake, intermixed with a fair amount of the good stuff. The First Gate lets through anything that satisfies a bare minimum of syntactical and semantic constraints. Thoughts that make it past the First Gate are the first ones you become conscious of - that's why they call the output the Stream of Consciousness.

A mile down the Stream of Consciousness is the Second Gate, spoken word, the filter through which thoughts become sounds. This Gate keeps you from saying all the foolish or risqué thoughts tripping through your head. Past the Second Gate, your spoken words form only a pathetic trickle - a Babbling Brook.

By now there is hardly anything left to sift from. The Third Gate, written word, is no physical gate but a team of goldpanners, scattered down the length of the Babbling Brook to pan for jewels and nuggets of gold. Such rare beauties are the only Babble that actually make it onto paper. You hoard these little trinkets in your personal diary or blog, hoping one day to accumulate enough to forge a beautiful necklace.

[...]

At the First Gate, conscious thought, noticing is the way to let through more subconscious Babble. Practice noticing thoughts and sensations (not just confusion) that you never pay attention to. Much of meditation is devoted to relaxing this first Prune filter. Much of art is devoted to the motto: make the familiar strange, where strange is better translated as salient.

Another exercise along similar lines is zooming in on anything, anything at all. Pick up and stare at the whorls and aphids running down that twig on your driveway. Take apart that broken old Canon in the attic. Dissect your aversions toward attending Algebraic Geometry.

[...]

dissociation-into-subpersonalities exercise has a whole of great side effects, but the relevant one for us is that it again shortens the mental gap between the First and Second Gate by making thinking feel like conversation.
 

borzoi

Well-known member
i reread impro recently. the chapter on status interactions always scrambles my brain for a few days and i feel like i can't hold a conversation with anyone without noticing all the seams.
 
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