Showing posts from May, 2011

Space Child 1: Apollo

I just entered a competition the first prize of which is a journey into space. I am under no illusions about winning, but it is nice to have these little possibilities hanging there in the back brain giving us cause to imagine just how wonderful would it be if only...  Millions of people do the National Lottery every week for instance and the chances of winning that are far less likely. So you never know, I might win. And of all the things I really want to do, number one by a long way has always been leaving the planet, if only temporarily. I dream about space travel on a regular basis and am eternally disappointed in the non-arrival of the future that was promised us in our childhood. OK so we have a different future, an amazing one that we could never have imagined back in the seventies. The internet, a whole extra dimension, has been added to human experience in the most significant technological development since Gutenberg and yet... It's not as good as space travel, is

Death After Life

Increasingly these days I find myself waking up in the night and worrying about death. Worry is far too mild a word for it. Blind panic would be more appropriate. Logically of course I know there is nothing that can be done to escape it. Intellectually I can be certain that the idea of an afterlife was only made up, initially to stop people going insane with fear and spending all their time in a blue funk instead of getting on with whatever it was they needed to do in order to be a valuable member of society and perpetuate the species. After a while the concept was adapted in order to control people and make them obey out of a fear of the quality of the place they would be allocated after shuffling off this mortal coil. My fear is not this kind of fear, the fear of Hell. It's just the fear of Not Being. But I'm not quite sure why this fear is so strong. When I cease to be I will have ceased to be and there will be no me. There will be no me to know that I'm not there.

Excuses, excuses

Sometimes it seems that we will stop at nothing to find external reasons for avoiding doing what we really didn't want to do anyway. We know that we didn't want to do it but we tell ourselves that we would have done it nonetheless, if only it hadn't been for the thing with the stuff or the fact that the situation was thus. Case in point. I ended up Not Cycling into work yesterday morning. The official reason (that is to say the reason I went snuffling after so I could hold it up in front of me like a Get Out Of Jail Free card or an FBI warrant) is that my current bike is a write off. Well, according to the Bike Doctor at work anyway when I took it to him for a checkup. Never mind the fact that I managed perfectly well to cycle home after this grim news or the fact that despite this I originally planned to cycle in yesterday as "one last journey" on the ailing bike. The real reason was that I wanted to carry on reading Neal Stephenson 's Anathem , large c

Live Dreaming

There's nothing quite as interesting as one's own dreams but the downside of this is that there's nothing potentially as boring as other people's. However one interesting thing about anyone's dreams is that if they write them up before falling asleep they may find that this captures details which they then completely forget. The next time they awake from consciousness they  won't remember them. At all. This may be to do with the way consciousness divides up time between the long and short term memory. I suspect that the short-term memory consists of "today" or in other words the amount of time since the last sleeping. This is how we distinguish today from yesterday. Today is now , we are conscious and living on our wits; memory of things that happened earlier that day feel very different from the memories of things that happened the day before, even though the difference in time between them is negligible. The important thing is that they happene

Altiora in Votis

GILES IS A NAZI MOTHERFUCKER These words were sprayed in two foot high white letters along the redbrick fascia of my school on a major trunk route through North London. I would imagine that tens of thousands of people saw this heartfelt statement, because even though the school authorities did their best to scrub away the obscenity, the letters remained visible as ghosts on the brick beneath the tall Victorian classroom windows for many years afterwards. I often wondered about the motivation for this graffiti. "Giles" was the Headmaster and an inoffensive figurehead whom I always thought of as a bit like a cut-price version of a minor member of the royal family. I didn't consider such an ineffectual individual worthy of such bile. Furthermore the words had been written, so it was whispered, by a boy who had been expelled for some misdemeanour or other. I really didn't understand this. As far as I was concerned being at the school was a nightmare, the claustrophobic

Brain Diet

This week I started cycling into work again for the first time in ages. The weather had improved, it was no longer even remotely cold and I basically couldn't come up with any further ways of putting it off. Leaving early it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared it might be, but on the other hand it did remind me of something about the way my brain works. During the cycle journey I am fully physically occupied. My brain is also very busy; calculating a trajectory here, making sure I obey the traffic lights there and ensuring I don't end up under a juggernaut due to a miscalculation whilst shooting round Vogue Gyratory. However these activities don't entirely occupy the brain. Whilst they're not unconscious autonomic responses they are below the threshold of language, which means that throughout the journey my thought processes are racing and my internal madman is monologuing at a million miles an hour coming up with reams of subvocal garbage and the odd gem. At on