Thoughts on Thoughts

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

I am Captain Insomnia.  My super power is the ability to stay awake forever.  Sometimes I just can’t get my brain to shut the hell up.  It’s probably clinical and can be treated with a pill which will destroy other parts of my life.  Fuck, anything I write seems self-servingly lame.  Part of my problem is that I’ve been destroyed by the passing of a person from my life.  Good friend, a love, someone I never wanted to be without.  There are smears of black earth similar to my life at the moment.  I once heard someone talking about a helicopter ride they took over New Orleans soon after Katrina.  They were veteran reporters of conflict zones and spoke of the war-like destruction of the area.  However, there was one difference they noted.  In war, there are pockets of destruction.  In New Orleans, the destruction was whole and complete.  That’s kind of how I felt a few months ago when my friend left my life.  And like New Orleans, I’m slowly creating a new future for myself.  The problem is, I think I have problems that reason alone can’t solve.  Sure, Reason, capital R, is good for helping negotiate your way out of a math problem or a resource shortage.  But when it comes to Love, reason often takes a back seat to other more important things.  Shakespeare wrote that Love is Blind.  But more accurately, Love is Blinding.  It’s the, “relearning to see process,” which takes so much time and effort after Love goes Supernova.  The passing of a relationship which held so much promise is like a death in the family.  You have conversational consequences such as, “who will I make up acronyms with now?”  There are physical and logistical considerations such as, “who’s cheek will I rest against lightly when it’s cold out?” I guess these issues only come up when you have the opportunity to do these things with someone.  It’s like learning to skydive just before a nuke goes off and fries all of the electronics in the world preventing future air travel for decades.  You think, “How will I skydive now?” 

Just an FYI, blog, I’m not writing to complain, though it may sound uneringly similar to complaining.  No, I’m just writing to clear my overloaded head so that I can get to sleep before I have to get up and go to work in 5.5 hours.  Other things…  I’ve found that my post-breakup persona doesn’t include the ability to meet new people very easily.  New people at work?  Don’t care.  Cute girl at the Sunday photo shoot?  Not going to try to get her number.  She’ll either fall in love with me then dump me, or I’ll fall in love with her and she’ll dump me.  Potentially, she will be awesome, but not for me, and I’ll dump her and she will then proceed to swear at me, call me names, say I treated her like a whore and all of that good stuff.  Sure, there’s a 1% chance that it will all work out: she will swing upside down away and toward my hands on a tire swing; we’ll press our palms on each others’ hearts on a palely-colorless morning in bed; she’ll call to me from the water, her dress a dark ring where it touches the lake; I’ll dream of her in swan-like imagery, write a poem about it and make a million dollars and use the money to create a park for the deaf which I’ll name after her; she’ll define glory and happiness when my eyes are closed and complete the song when my eyes are open.  But with only a 1% chance, I think I’ll just walk away and keep shooting.  Maybe she’ll come running after me and convince me otherwise. 

Other thoughts: My boss told me to start outsourcing photography so that I have more time to dedicate to PowerPoint and executive level meeting support and other corporate things which don’t involve intelligence or creativity but do involve denigration of the spirit and being yelled at by overpaid secretaries.  As the staff photographer, this is confusing bordering on nauseating.  I’ve been told that this is merely temporary, but I was told that my move to this A/V department was also temporary seven months ago.  Now I’m the only employee left in that shipwreck.  I feel like a candle that keeps being blown out.

I’ve also been full of writer’s block recently, as if you couldn’t tell.  But I learned a few things recently about Thought and Thinking which I’d like to share with you because, for the simple reason, that I think it’s cool.  Did you know that behavior and language are intertwined?  What does that mean?  The example I heard was thus: a rat is very good at left and right, and very good at colors.  But ask a rat to learn the combination of left and right with colors and the rat fails half of the time.  So put a biscuit in the corner of an all-white rectangular room, put the rat in the middle, show him the biscuit, he goes over to it.  Then, do it again, but spin the rat around so he doesn’t know which direction he is facing.  50% of the time, the rat goes the right way.  Now paint one of the walls blue.  Do the same thing.  The rat should be able to use the blue wall as a navigational aid.  Right?  No.  The rat still only goes the right way 50% of the time.  Apparently, the ability to reason, “the biscuit is to the left of the blue wall,” is impossible without the use of language.  OK, now try the same test with a human.  Let’s use a baby.  Same results, 50%.  How about at age 1?  Same.  2?  3?  Same.  It’s not until the age of 6 that children can correctly complete this test using the blue wall to find the biscuit.  Apparently, this is when several islands of thought are combined within the thoughts of the mind.  Previous to this magic age, children have concepts of color, they have concepts of left and right, but they can’t combine these islands of thought in a spacialway.  Want to know something else cool?  Adults fail this test when you remove language from them.  How do you remove language from someone?  Force it out of them by making them shadow someone else talking by hooking up an ipod and headphones to a person, asking them to repeat every word they hear in a speech being read (a very hard thing to do – try it), and then asking them to find the biscuit in the white room with the blue wall.  Adults fail the test as often as the rats and the babies.

So language, or the inner dialog, helps people with spacial reasoning.  Similarly, this blog post has helped temporarily clear my mind of a few things.  I’ll now head off to bed in the hopes that I can fall asleep and shrink back down to my alter ego, mild-mannered Jon Hillenbrand, photographer with issues that can wait until tomorrow.

What do you think?