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until we tore in two

2014-04-12 - 9:58 a.m.

A continued parade of Indigo Buntings at the feeder, again mostly male, many in full adult breeding plumage. I don't know where the females are but I guess the girls just want to be with the girls, like the school lunchroom or the Talking Heads song...

"A theory in cognitive science named functionalism -- which many prominent researchers subscribe to -- asserts that similar minds can arise from quite different brains, that brains are just the collection of wires and processing modules that instantiate thought." -- This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin

He then goes on a long discussion, which is evidently not a digression, of illusion.

Isn't this a roundabout way of describing reincarnation and the fact that our individuality is just an illusion, albeit an extremely convincing one?

Not traditional reincarnation, no. Liam Gallagher didn't wait for John Lennon to die to be born, although Noel might have mocked him less for believing he's Lennon if he had. The same soul -- being a scientist Levitin can't say "soul," he always says "mind" but I don't know if I want the mask of pseudo-science on my musings here -- arises again and again. And with seven billion people in the world, nature is worn out. The same soul appears in multiple bodies.

Well, we all know this about surfaces. Nature uses the same faces, and if you get around, you quickly learn the truth of the statement that, "Everybody has a double." The older you get, the more you realize Palahniuk was right. It's unlikely that you're a special snowflake because, after all, nobody else is.

It's easy to see when we stand back and look at celebrities because our own ego isn't so involved in it. I suppose Alex Turner/Bob Dylan is the very obvious example, although we can still hope that Turner avoids the motorcycle accident. Ezra Koenig/Paul Simon. Madonna/Britney/Lady Gaga. And so on and so forth.

One could almost suspect that Gallagher had this outcome in his head from an early age and deliberately modeled himself on Lennon in pursuit of the result. But I'd be surprised if he were the only musician to have the thought cross his mind.

As I type, I'm listening to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (written substantially by Jeff Mangum), which is about the reincarnation of Anne Frank and some other rather random people who just don't fit in. (I'm sorry to say that we used to call them freaks, so if any two-headed boys actually stumble across this diary, forgive me for the unintended offense.)

The thesis of this album -- stated explicitly in Ghosts -- is "I know that she [Frank] will live forever..." Some building in Amsterdam or some book in a library is not Frank's immortality. Her immortality is that she's actually alive right now in a physical human body. The sensitive teen-ager who wants to be an artist or a writer instead of another housewife but gets utterly crushed by society...there's one and probably more than one in every single town.

Hence the universality of her story despite the fact that most of these "ghosts" are destined to be crushed by forces a little more subtle than genocidal jackbooted Nazis. Some may even avoid being crushed altogether. After all, most seeds may fall on stony ground, but never all of them...

Rather hard to put this into words without it sounding all woo.

Levitin tries to put a rational, scientific face on it:

I also believe similar thoughts can arise from different brain architectures. By analogy, I can watch the same television program on an RCA, a Zenith, a Mitsubishi, even on my computer screen...My dog Shadow...When he is hungry or hurts his paw, it is unlikely that the pattern of nerve firings in his brain bears much resemblance to the pattern of firings in my brain when I'm hungry or stub my toe. But I do believe that he is experiencing substantially similar mind states."

To me, this sparks a related thought. The human race is immortal and will never die. (Well, effectively never, as long as there are worlds and galaxies.) If we succeed in wiping ourselves out, the same experiences and emotions will arise again in another species. Perhaps they already have. Of course, that's way beyond what Levitin said so don't blame his book for my woo. And I can't fully justify this statement. But it feels right.

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