Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tossing and Turning in Toronto

As is apparent from my title (get it? It's like Sleepless in Seattle), I am having major troubles falling asleep at night. The frustrating thing is that I can't seem to stop sleeping in the morning. So why can't I garner the desire to sleep from the morning and apply it to my nights?

I hate the feeling of lying there, first on your back, then on one side, then the other... and knowing that the minutes are ticking by and you still aren't sleeping. Being aware of not sleeping makes the possibility of sleep even worse. Turning the light on to read I feel is counter to falling asleep or feeling tired. I guess lately I just can't turn my mind off. Some nights it's because of worrying or feeling sad, some nights it's because I'm so excited about all the things that are going on. I wish I could tell my brain to save the thoughts til morning. I just hope this problem remedies itself soon, because I'm sick of sleeping away my mornings and feeling disgruntled because of it.

Today, I read a lot about brains and how they work. It was one of my Psychology chapters. What a crazily complex system that resides inside us! I am most amazed that humans were able to get down to the nitty gritty of the structures of neurons and the structure of DNA. Neurons aren't actually attached, but the information is passed from one to the next somehow through the synapse or the synaptic cleft (which is the space between the dendrites and the terminal buttons)...I haven't got it all straight yet, but it's still incredible. Just the awesome (in the true sense of the word) ability of the brain to compensate for itself, by taking on functions of damaged parts, or growing new parts blows my mind (is that possible?).

I still have an entire chapter to read before Monday (another fifty pages or so), as well as a Sociology chapter. And of course my Murrow presentation. We've decided to put off Pulp Fiction until next Saturday, so instead I'm going to watch Good Night, and Good Luck which is a film about Edward Murrow. I consulted my professor and he said it's a great movie. Hooray.

Speaking of reading, I just "finished" one of my Philosophy readings. This one was by Thomas Nagel called "What is it Like to be a Bat?" or something like that. The funny thing about getting my Philosophy readings done is that reading them is like a race to see how quickly I can read the words. They meant absolutely nothing to me. It's pretty much an exercise in word-recognition. It's a very good activity to do for getting other thinking done while you do it. Oh dear, Philosophy. How you fail to capture my interest. This one was actually pretty accessibly written I think, but still none of it registered. Usually it's all in some foreign version of English, like reading a whole different language and pretending you understand. When I'm tired, I try to read and I fall asleep. When I'm perfectly awake, I read and nothing computes. There's no way to win. Then, in lectures, no matter how rested I feel, I doze off or get engrossed in my doodling. Good thing there's a handout for every class and good thing he gives us review pages that give us exactly what will be on the exam. I just feel bad for my TA in tutorials when he asks us questions about the readings or anything else, and at first, without prompting, the class is silent, staring at the desk, pretending to think... eventually some discussions get going, but I find even those make me end up questioning why we even bother because the TA makes it impossible to come up with a satisfactory answer. And some of his arguments don't make sense, or they do, but, like many comparisons and objections in Philosophy, are overexaggerations or use unrealistic reasoning. My brain just aches by the end of it. At this point, I'm just trying to get through Philosophy and looking forward to the time when I never have to take another Philosophy class in my life.

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed that I don't enjoy Philosophy. And many people tell me not to judge it by the Intro course, but I have a feeling that I won't enjoy Philosophy, the way it's taught, in any form. Of course I'm interested in the issues, but I'm almost turned off the by the ambition and confidence with which it's dealt with. All these writers write like they have the key. And the professor and my TA tell me to write like I have the answers and to support my answers. How can they and how can I? There are no answers, that's why we study it. And I'm just a university student! These valiant attempts are always bound to be nit-picked apart by all the other philosophers, leaving you discouraged. I know you can't find answers without a lot of attempts at hypotheses, but a lot of the attempts just seem like a waste of time. I think I'm having a hard time explaining myself here. I think basically, there are some things that we really just can't explain and never will be able to explain. And I hate the philosophers who try to explain the unexplainable (for instance, something that we have mostly agreed is spiritual) by saying that there is an intricate scientific process to it because you can compare it to some other scientific process. I don't know why we don't all get stumped at skepticism. All philosophers arrive there at some point, and yet they keep going. I think most of all I hate the obsession, the mania, with trying to make everything in life something you can explain. Why does everything we experience have to be concretely understandable? Why can't we let some things just be? I feel like we're going to lose knowledge with some of the solutions we find, or rather, if we find solutions to certain things.

On the other hand, I'm about to dive into an exploration of Psychology (because I'm hoping to major in it). Psychology is explaining behaviours, feelings, thoughts. It might be getting close to the point I described above, but it's fascinating. I want to know more. It's amazing the things that can subconsciously alter your mind. I want to understand it, so I can understand myself, and help others understand themselves.

MIND. That is the big question that has been raised in my Philosophy class these days: What is your mind? Is it spiritual or physical? To me, it seems like a silly question. Even though I've just learned about all the complex functions of the brain, I still believe there's something about the mind that isn't the result of those functions. Something immeasurable, and therefore spiritual. What is it? I don't know if I would call it consciousness. I don't even think it is necessarily confined to your brain. I feel like the mind is what connects us to our history, like Octavio Paz's Other Voice. The mind carries the consciousness and experience of generations. It carries the wisdom of creativity and inspiration and the ability to think abstractly. I will have to keep thinking about how I feel about it, especially because I'm already starting to question if I'm so sure that it isn't just the physical processes of our brains. That just seems like such a cold, hard explanation. Maybe mind is soul? I don't know, apparently it's already too late in the night  for me to be contemplating these things.

I have a theory (or hypothesis...I'm confused) that my most creative time of day is around noon. I have class at noon every single day, and throughout those classes I see designs in every open space of my page and I can't seem to stop drawing. Either that's my most creative time of day, or those are boring classes. I think I would like to test this theo...hypothesis? by doing something creative at noon on a day that I don't have class. I wonder if there even is a creative time of day. Maybe the theory is that I have a particularly creative time of day, and the hypothesis is that my most creative time of day is at noon... I think this is evidence of my brain trying to absorb the Psychology knowledge.

Well, I think I will bring this rather eclectic and questioning post to an end. Hopefully now that some of these thoughts have been typed out, I won't have such a hard time falling asleep tonight. I want to get up early and get things done before my tutorial.

By the way, I'd just like to make a note about how often I'd like to be doing these posts. Really, I've been doing them when I feel like doing them, which so far, has been every day. But I won't be expecting myself to do them every day. But you never know, I might. I think in future I'd like to take a few days to ruminate on a subject before I write a post so it can be a little bit more structured and coherent... as it is I'm just splatting my thoughts onto the post. Which is good in some ways, I suppose. Stay tuned.

Good night, and good luck.

Your friendly neighbourhood Erin.

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