April 21, 2017ramble

(tl; dr: maybe I'm so damnably bad with names is because my main processing part of my brain is separate from my verbal inner voice part of my brain.)

Weird possible introspection revelation, tying into yesterday's Cormac McCarthy link about how the subconscious talks to us via images and dreams and not words.

I had some early morning dreams that were about me going on a white river rafting trip, modeled after one I took a few years ago. For some reason it was stuck on the preliminaries rather than the rafting itself, but whatever -

As I stumbled through that murky twilight of half-awake, I realized the one thing that was missing from my understanding of that dream narrative's was a description: i.e. the words "river rafting". I can't be sure of the dream production process, but it often feels like some part of my brain, the subconscious, spits out feelings and images, and then my verbal/inner-voice/narrator weaves it together into a more coherent story that it can understand. (The McCarthy article speculates a bit about this process as well)

I feel like my subconscious can *understand* words - in fact it's the subsystem I use to skim read quickly, and it gleans the relevant bits for the narrator brain (and tells it to go back for the tricky bits for more careful review) but the subconscious doesn't use words and labels much - it relies more on a wordless understanding of how things interact.

This felt like a revelation, or maybe half of one. I have long suspected I'm bad with names and faces because they don't change how I interact with that person. A person could interact and be the same person under a hundred different names and still be the same entity from an interactive standpoint. (This explains that old "remember people's names" trick of associating it with some semi-arbitrarily selected mnemonic - like picture Francis in a beret with a baguette, just to engage these other parts of the mind and not just the verbal narrator)

So the other half, the new half, of this revelation is maybe that is so difficult for me because I rely more than most folks on the part of my brain that doesn't have any facility for names. I might just be making an excuse for myself, trying to to justify a kind of laziness and disengagement, but I think fully recognizing the source of a problem is both a key to making excuses for it and for fixing it.

(The revelation also provides a path to reconciling some seeming contradictions: on the one hand I'm what my friend Tom Kermode has called a "cruxian", the thrust of things is what matters to me. I like art and music that engages in broad strokes, and a dual insensitivity to details / nuance and indifference to interior life that doesn't come to the surface. On the other hand, one of my arguing partners frequently gets annoyed when I correct his vocabulary, and insist on a precise selection and usage of words (but, to his chagrin, precise in a descriptivist, how it's actually used kind of way, not in a word-history arm-chair etymologist kind of way) - at a shallow level, word choice seems very much to be about nuance. I think the contradiction is resolved in the interplay between the desire for two people's subconsciouses, the ones doing the deep understanding to communicate but they have to filter through the rational verbal narrators - the surface characteristics of the words are all they have to work with, so the wrong or misleading word can lead to big problems indeed.)

This all reminds me of that bit from "Through the Looking-Glass":
'This must be the wood,' she said thoughtfully to herself, 'where things have no names. I wonder what'll become of *my* name when I go in? I shouldn't like to lose it at all--because they'd have to give me another, and it would be almost certain to be an ugly one. But then the fun would be trying to find the creature that had got my old name! That's just like the advertisements, you know, when people lose dogs--"answers to the name of 'Dash:' had on a brass collar"--just fancy calling everything you met "Alice," till one of them answered! Only they wouldn't answer at all, if they were wise.'

#321 formation of a committee to determine the plausibility of "aggressive passive" behavior; for example, furiously hammering water (for my work's slack channel #stupid-idea-buddies )