online: 3 september 2004

3 september 2004 respecting the nervous system

16:10 On a seat, hidden away beneath some oak trees... I've been lying on it for about half an hour with my feet about 30 cm higher than my head (my brain and circulation enjoying, I imagine, a partial release from fighting gravity). Certainly I feel rested, this sunny afternoon, after an exhausting morning of struggle to complete some earlier entries and to rectify accidental deletions of the webpage from which I copy and paste the format of the digital diary. I find such mistakes most difficult to correct.

As I lay on this seat (or bench as I suppose I should call it) I was amazed and pleased at the immediate change to looking upward instead of horizontally. To look out into the sky between leaves and branches... Later, after gazing idly at what seemed a confusing pattern of trunks and branches seen from below, I suddenly began to see the whole of this pattern, this spherical space filled with treetrunks each different yet similar to each was as if my brain had, after minutes of confusion, learnt the changing pattern of every part of the tree and was aware of each simultaneously... I wouldn't say it was a mystical vision or an artistic insight - it seemed to me like the normal but underestimated ability of the nervous system to 'grasp the whole' of anything. That primary skill, all but ignored in book-based education.

As I wrote that, a strangely wrinkled nut of some kind fell on the ground before me. It doesn't resemble an acorn but the tree above is an oak (perhaps a scrub oak, with many trunks resembling branches)... Why do I try to identify things? Isn't it better to look at the whole scene without categorising its parts? Isn't that what my brain was doing just now when I left it to make its own sense of an unfamiliar sight? Yes. It's time to take off those academic spectacles and return to the whole.

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