Tuesday, 20 January 2015

And then Suddenly.....!

Some days, for reasons I could only speculate upon, it is as if a brisk breeze has blown through the mind, flinging open the doors to every room contained therein. It flings around Papers of Significance and blows the dust off seemingly sepia-tinted memories, restoring them to Kodachrome brilliance. And best of all, it whips the covers off Piles of Possibility in overlooked chambers, where ideas and inspirations have been covered up for later perusal and subsequently forgotten as the detritus of daily life gets piled on top. "Is today such a day?" I fail to hear you ask. Yes it is and it feels good to be 100% in possession of one's mind.

I suppose in a mechanism as squishy and inconstant as the human brain, with all its various concentrations of neurotransmitters, hormones and nutrients, it is no surprise that the experience of being conscious can vary so greatly. Given the rudimentary nature of my own cognition over Christmas and New Year, the contrast is somewhat remarkable (inasmuch as I am actually remarking on it here). What could be responsible for such wild swings in the brain's emotional and intellectual performance?

Could it be perhaps the ingestion of lots of fermented vegetables which I am told will "repair" damaged gut fauna after a dose of rather brutal but necessary antibiotics? I confess, this is my latest nutritional discovery and I am impressed with how much tastier vegetables are if you shred them, add spices and leave them in a bowl for the  various bacteria to do their magic. It's an odd thing to be evangelising about but after a couple of weeks, I confess, subjectively that I do feel different, though well-known human heuristics make an objective judgement impossible of course.

Perhaps it is the disciplined resumption of my gym regime, necessary because a chap of my advancing years cannot be too careful, what with testosterone levels dropping year by year and muscle mass declining commensurately. Well not with me, Age, my dear adversary! Not yet anyway. I have dancing to do; Tango in dimly lit bars and elsewhere, energetic lifts to perform with ladies whose weight I must appear to bear without strain or complaint.
Expressing joy through the medium of dance, by flinging someone about.

Or perhaps the Earth, the Galaxy, the Universe, as it rotates, passes through wisps of some kind of field which induces in us inspiration and sprightly spirits? Could that be it perhaps?

Or maybe it is simply that I discovered Pinterest and have subsequently been amassing pallets in my shed in order to construct projects. Indeed, last night I made a beer crate out of planks and it gave me an inordinate amount of satisfaction. A Small thing, but mine own. Next: Pallet Patio Furniture for Summer evenings! Making things seems existentially satisfying.
I made this and I am deeply satisfied as a result.
 Whatever it is, I like it and I wish I could work out what it is so that I could firstly, reproduce it at will on days when the mind is cloudy and slow, and secondly, I could suggest it to others who profess to their own low spirits (recognising that not everyone works the same of course, but knowing some things are almost universally helpful, like chocolate or Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now").

With all the misery and tragedy in the world, societal and personal, perhaps a moment's thought about what lifts us to happier places is something worth trying every now and again. I saw crocuses today.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Being lesser versions of ourselves

It's difficult to know what put the damper on the Christmas break the most, having flu and associated opportunistic bacterial secondary infections for pretty much the whole month of December, or the absence from all those daily sources of tangential thought. Life can get very convergent in the same environment for two weeks whilst the office languishes unpopulated and unheated.
Sometimes, it feels as if someone is going through the rooms in your head, turning the lights off one by one and closing the doors as they go.
By January 2nd, I was a lacklustre shell of my usual self, with dull eyes,  slack jaw hanging open continuously and mind devoid of anything but the most rudimentary of thoughts (mostly regarding discomfort from the furniture and going to the toilet. Lack of appetite meant even hunger was absent and I couldn't drink on account of the antibiotics). This is not the fault of those around me throughout that time in any other respect than I know them so very well and so responses tend to be familiar. And it is the unexpected and unfamiliar that seems to inspire the sudden opening up of new avenues of thought with the attendant reward of that little squish of dopamine.
The most exciting thing that happened in my Street this Christmas

It was only a visit to Bristol where, in restaurant that things started to improve. Pondering the inordinate delay to our order as I contemplated eating the tablecloth as my now returned appetite intruded forcefully upon all other thoughts, a wall made of, basically, wooden crates caused some of the annexes of my mind to reopen and the light to go on. For some reason, my curiosity, an animal with its own opinions on where I should direct my attention and how quickly action must subsequently follow, sent me over to have a look at how they were constructed so perhaps I could make some myself form the huge pile of acquired pallets I am currently dismantling in my garage (they have such useful wood on them and once planed are useful for many projects. Like beer crates for instance. In fact, I have made two now and most satisfying it was too!)

Then on Friday, a visit to the Waterside provided excellent 1920s Jazz music and exhausting dancing. This somehow reignited the sparks so that by my return to the office on Monday, most of the rooms in my mind were open with a neat little fire burning warmly in the hearth and the windows thrown open allowing a healthy breeze to blow away all the cobwebs that had accumulated during their closure. Just in time for my return to work. Yes....

I wonder what it is that switches us on as opposed to shutting us down. I am surely not alone in this feeling that a large portion of our mental faculties are somehow put out of action or beyond our reach by circumstances. Sometimes, a period of comfortable but numbing low-stimulus leaves  me an intellectual and spiritual zombie. Other times, some small thing sparks a train of thought, seemingly from nowhere,  and the mind lights up like a country with heavily populated cities photographed at night from space.

This is not just me, is it?

So, how can we prevent the former and encourage the latter? I really don't know: It seems that the stimuli which fire up the brain can be so very unexpected in nature and yet difficult to identify that making them available adequately to keep ourselves recognisable as the people we enjoy being is a real challenge.

But it must be done as I really hate being that other dullard and it feels a waste of time being such rudimentary versions of ourselves when we know so much more is possible.

Ooh! I feel a bit more like my usual self again. Writing this must have helped!