Blindsight and the page

I read about a man who suffered a stroke in his visual cortex, rendering him “cortically blind.” His eyes functioned perfectly well–he wasn’t retinally blind. But the signals going from eyeballs to the visual processing center in the back of the brain hit the stroke wall, like so many misfired paintballs.

However, and this is the cool thing, the man couldn’t see a damned thing, but he was still able to navigate a maze full of obstacles. He couldn’t “see,” and yet he passed through it perfectly! This means his eyes saw the maze and sent the retinal information through more primitive, survival parts of the brain–motor cortex for avoiding danger, amygdala for emotional processing.

Shows that our conscious only gets a small part of what we know, what’s directing us. And this, I thought, is exactly what creative writing is like. Whenever I freak about some part of the writing process, it’s because I’m “cortically blind”–that’s all writers’ block is–the inability or refusal to let that other mysterious part of the mind, its creative surges, do the job of creating. The best stuff pops up, like a quark, and it’s not open to conscious forcing or control, or not much, anyway. I don’t really have writers’ block, I’m just lazy or too tired.

Who was it who said the hardest part of writing is appyling the seat of your pants to the chair? That’s all it is, just a matter of sitting down and letting the “retinal” muses take off. Information is coming in, it’s getting blended and frappéd in the mind, it’s coming out our fingers, whether we are conscious or can see it or not.

Control freaks do not make good creative writers. Unless they harness the control part of the controlling part of the brain. I wish we could point to the creative modules of the mind/brain as easily as the visual modules. But that wouldn’t be much fun, in the end. Better to ride the rollercoaster in the dark. Where going off the edge is a total surprise.

The Trouble with Superheros

Flatiron Building, NYC.
Spiderman’s day job at the Daily Bugle

I used to wonder why I was only one of five protesters during the first Gulf War.

There was so little national dialogue. Father George did gather an international consensus, and everyone agreed Saddam was creepy, his state stability built on crushed knees and chemicals, so, OK, fine.

He annexed Kuwait (like we annexed Texas) so we galloped right awn in. Some of us were concerned about the oily proceedings.

The second Gulf+ war, a few more of us showed up to “dialog” with signs about Junior George going after the people who went after his daddy. “Surf not War” exclaimed some flip-flopped dudes’ boards, along with the No Blood for Oil ones.

Still, our country was relatively silent, and has been, while trillions of money trickle away into grave destruction.

Are we relatively quiet because TV doesn’t show bloody soldiers?

Are we quiet because our bank accounts don’t take a direct debit hit in a pay-as-you-go fashion for these wars? Lulling us into thinking we, personally, are not actually paying for them?

That’s a hell of a smoke screen, krazy king george!

Or are we quiet because we’ve learned to be patient and submissive. We have a big monster coming, boom boom boom–some impossibly large implacable and complicated problem that we KNOW we can’t solve, but by the end of the movie, one (or a few more)


will come dashing in to save us.

Hollywood Americans. We are so well trained to wait for someone to fix everything. Like quiet anticipation. Knowing, trusting, it will be over soon, all will be well, wrongs righted, life askew tilted and tipped back to normal.

This movie has gone on too long. People have left quietly down the side exits, gone back to work, home, mildly confused they haven’t gotten their just-deserved denoument, but they’re not asking for it very loudly. They just put the confusion somewhere else, in a drawer somewhere, in the garage, out in the garden shed, to be attended to at some later date, perhaps.

A whole generation of kids, raised on transformers, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Green Hornet, The Federation, are having to rise to the occasion. Become the mythical superhero in Jesus-fashion, mere mortals taking on the human world and its ills. Asking their father, little king daddy G, “dude, what’s up?” (Translation: Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?), not realizing that he’s really not there.

But they are. And their whole adventure is not ending according to script, for us or them.

Thought Quarks

The BeanThis is what I call the mysterious, quarklike appearance of ideas. If I don’t grab a pen pronto they slip out. Gone. To flit into someone else’s brain or dream, someone who’ll write them down into something great, if they’re not lazy like me, or to tunnel straight through the universe on their own unmeasurable trajectory.

That’s my fear if I don’t nail these “thought quarks” down with language. Someone will get credit for something I forgot. I prefer to say, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!” That’s when I know it’s someone else’s thoughtquarks I relish.

To symbolize sudden brainwaves:

I like to transform thoughtquarks into words, into language. Musicians translate them into notes measures movements. Mathematicians use numbers–otherwise meaningless symbols, to construct a physical or imaginary yet logical to me illogical event. We all know numbers don’t exist; they’re just a concept, a thought quark gone stable. Inventors give us things like better toilet seats and cool rockets. The first rocket was invented by a cartoonist.

Ah, to translate the thoughtquark into symbols—before the idea subsides—to pop up somewhere else, in and out of the universal mind, pop goes that weasel. Jacques Derrida says there’s no creativity or originality, all thoughts are derivative and come from a chain of something else along the long line of perceiving humans.

Thought quarks: Brain going on and offline, connecting. To? To nothing but our imaginary constructs and if French philosophers toil hard enough they can deconstruct these words, ideas, novelties into subparticles of rote chemical transmissions. Funsucker!

Cheers to the writers who translate epiphany (from the sacred to the profane to the preferably absurdly droll) into words, edification, entertainment, nonetheless.

I have zillions of tiny pieces of papers, receipts, napkins, notebooks, beer-stained dreams filled with these mental senses that pop in unawares and pop out just as quickly.

I thought these senses needed to be worked out in a novel, poem, or short-story; turfed onto some character, setting, plot situation, essay.

Now, I turf them to you. Pop goes the Blog! (how slow and unwieldy language is, and fun).

All art is an object you can toss into the air to admire and forget as it disappears before hitting the ground. Not before changing something else, though, before transmitting something.