Your Brain as Victorian Attic Full of Mismatched Clocks

12 07 2011

At Culture Kitchen I once wrote “We the Clockkeepers: Our Tyranny of Time”, about losing our natural wild time and how over the centuries of civilization we’ve learned the hard way that “the keeper of my time is my keeper.”

Then today I saw a neuroscientist interviewed about each brain being a fingerprint and thinking with complex, layered ways and means uncontrolled by, unknown to and largely unknowable by ourselves even as we are actively in the middle of it.

So I wanted to connect the two, maybe keep my subconscious (my real keeper?) from putting them where I couldn’t find them again!

The question raises a fundamental issue of consciousness: how much of what we perceive exists outside of us and how much is a product of our minds? Time is a dimension like any other, fixed and defined down to its tiniest increments: millennia to microseconds, aeons to quartz oscillations. Yet the data rarely matches our reality. . .

Why does time slow down when we fear for our lives? Does the brain shift gears for a few suspended seconds and perceive the world at half speed, or is some other mechanism at work?

. . . Just how many clocks we contain still isn’t clear. The most recent neuroscience papers make the brain sound like a Victorian attic, full of odd, vaguely labelled objects ticking away in every corner.

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