However, what struck me today was the hum of conversation in the place. Now, I have had some trouble with my brain of late, as you probably know. Some bits subsequently weren't working very well, causing me to feel a bit thick on occasion and to have trouble concentrating when there was a lot going on. A crowded place, with a lot of conversation has been a challenge to me, causing me to sometimes have to go and sit outside somewhere quiet whilst my brain cools down.
As an aside, I have had the last two weeks off as annual holiday.
|Van in the mountains|
Tents and vans appear in a freshly mowed field and we stayed from Thursday to Monday, helping where we could with preparations, clearing up and most importantly, haymaking. After all, it is a farm.
|Children of the Revolution|
|Soundcheck in the now-clean barn.|
|Party in the barn: Somewhere in this night, I got my brain back|
And so, as I was sitting in the cafe today, i remarked to myself how the hubbub of voices would have caused me a major "moment" a few weeks ago as my brain tried to make sense of it all at the same time.
But now, I find I can "float" on top of it all and "tune in" to individual conversations or voices. This is an improvement I welcome. But also, it gives me cause for thought.
Normally, where we direct our attention is not consciously under our control. Ok, we may sit writing an email in the office, or watching television, thinking we are concentrating, but if a man cam in wielding a knife or even wearing a silly hat, our attention would be drawn to him and away from the task in hand. This makes sense and is to be expected. However, it becomes clear that some process in our unconscious constantly monitors our surroundings and takes note of what to ascribe significance to and the relative weightings of pieces of information in our environment. And this is not visible to us, or even a process we are aware of.
Well, this has not been working in my brain for some months. All information is equally significant and my brain has been trying to process the whole lot simultaneously. This is obviously impossible and the attempts have caused me some distress. However, today, I sat in the cafe and realised that not only can I focus now and allow this repaired process to do its job, but that I am actually aware of its exixtence and of its operation. Where it was "below the waterline" before, now its workings are apparent to me.
And it is utterly fascinating!
Sitting listening to the hum of discussion, I note some voices demand attention more than others. Speech which is emphatic is more difficult to ignore. Emotional emphasis is flagged as more highly significant and more worthy of attention.
Some male voices are quite compelling. I cannot work out why, but a certain resonance or tone causes the attention to be drawn to it. Also, some bossy women seem more evident in the surroundings than before. I note that with the compelling or emotional voices, I am drawn to examine the content of the speech: With nagging voices, I am afraid the initial response is somewhat more visceral and less civilised.
To observe this process in action is utterly captivating. From a maelstrom of noise that would paralyse my consciousness for a period of time, now information is emerging and the process of extracting it and ascribing significance to it is becoming less of an effort and more unconscious. Unconscious and yet now transparent.
So, now there is another set of questions to occupy the curiosity: What are the criteria upon which our minds base their decisions of where to direct the spotlight of attention to?
These are questions I probably won't find answers to but out of a near-catastrophe, I have had the opportunity to examine some of the intricate functions of the human brain at first hand, as an observer. As a self-regarding mechanism, the brain does give us some wonderfully interesting insights into our own humanity.
So, next time you are in a pub, a restaurant, anywhere with a lot of enthusiastically interacting people, I urge you to just pause a moment to listen in to the whole, and then individual components of the verbal melee. And become aware of the incredible amount of work your brain is doing without you having to worry about it. It really is very impressive.
|I am back! :-)|