Free Capitalist

The untapped power of the human mind

34 posts in this topic

Take a look at this amazing picture, drawn by an autistic artist after a single helicopter flight over London:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/arti...66&ito=1490

Autistic people are sometimes known to have unlocked very powerful mental capacities in other areas of brain activity (think Rain Man). What more could be locked away in our own minds? And what's more important, where is it coming from? Why don't we have these powers now? Laziness and unwillingness to train?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Take a look at this amazing picture, drawn by an autistic artist after a single helicopter flight over London:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/arti...66&ito=1490

Autistic people are sometimes known to have unlocked very powerful mental capacities in other areas of brain activity (think Rain Man). What more could be locked away in our own minds? And what's more important, where is it coming from? Why don't we have these powers now? Laziness and unwillingness to train?

I am always amazed at high-powered savants. I too wonder about what they mean for the concept of intelligence.

I have to go somewhere in five minutes, but let me just pose one more question:

Do the incredible, nearly superhuman, mental abilities displayed by savants come at a price? What is the connection between certain parts of the brain? Do certain aspects of the brain (like higher thinking, logic) adversely affect others (like photographic memory)? Can we ‘have it all’, so to speak, or is the brain like tuning a car; helping the car do one thing often hurts another?

OK, that was a bunch of questions (but there subject oriented.) Anyway, thanks for bringing up this interesting subject.

- Ryan

P.S. – there is so much to talk about: Meditation, weird memory techniques, self-esteem. But I really have to go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What more could be locked away in our own minds? And what's more important, where is it coming from? Why don't we have these powers now? Laziness and unwillingness to train?

It is probably due to limited time and purposeful activity directed toward other goals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do the incredible, nearly superhuman, mental abilities displayed by savants come at a price? What is the connection between certain parts of the brain? Do certain aspects of the brain (like higher thinking, logic) adversely affect others (like photographic memory)? Can we ‘have it all’, so to speak, or is the brain like tuning a car; helping the car do one thing often hurts another?

I think the truth lies here myself. Nature doesn't waste resources on unessentials. Use it or lose it. So, I believe the 'average' brain is indeed a compromise perfectly suited to survival. Many of these savants are so handicapped that they have poor survival skills in everyday life. The areas in which they excel, do not normally improve their overall suitability to deal with the world around them. If it did, evolution would have made such abilities common.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes but even if the average brain, and average faculties, are perfectly suited for survival, what is remarkable is that highly-efficacious abilities are also there.

It's not that we have our mediocre sight skills and that's that, but rather that we have extraordinary sight skills, which are in the course of the day toned-down just so the brain can keep up with living a life. That to me is a very impressive and inspiring thought. All of our faculties are extraordinary, and are merely toned-down for day-to-day life. That means "terabytes" of memory, perfect pitch, any perfection of faculty that you can name. All of that is with us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I honestly don't see what is so great about all the 'superhuman' abilities displayed by idiot-savants: what I see is a damaged mind that instead of functioning in a healthy conceptual way, operates like a lifeless computer, capable of rapidly recording and transmitting vast amounts raw data.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is probably due to limited time and purposeful activity directed toward other goals.

I agree with this explanation. I have always told those "mystics" who state, "We only use 5% of our mind! We have to evolve!" that the other 95% is used too, just in different ways. Taking away from some part is damaging another part of our ability. It makes no evolutionary sense to have "dead" or "useless" brain matter.

Nevertheless, this is a very neat picture :rolleyes:.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I honestly don't see what is so great about all the 'superhuman' abilities displayed by idiot-savants: what I see is a damaged mind that instead of functioning in a healthy conceptual way, operates like a lifeless computer, capable of rapidly recording and transmitting vast amounts raw data.

The point is that it's amazing to see the capacity of the human mind.

I referenced, over a year ago, a guy who could remember pi to an astounding number of digits, pages worth, with complete accuracy. It took hours, IIRC, for him to recite it. He was able to learn Icelandic, a very difficult language, in an extremely short period of time. To top it off, he was normal otherwise. He had no real deficiencies. It's astounding to me that a human mind can do that, because our minds don't normally function that way.

It makes me wonder if we can tap into this in some way and solve more complex problems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I honestly don't see what is so great about all the 'superhuman' abilities displayed by idiot-savants: what I see is a damaged mind that instead of functioning in a healthy conceptual way, operates like a lifeless computer, capable of rapidly recording and transmitting vast amounts raw data.

I think it’s the possibility that these abilities might lay dormant inside normal human brains; and that they might be discovered and used.

For instance, I could have saved many hours of my life if I could memorize an entire textbook of information in a single sitting (savants have been known to memorize huge amounts of information flawlessly in a small amount of time.)

Or, as an animator, it would be great to call upon perfect photographic memory when I needed it (no more reference books!) Of course, I realize there is a difference between knowing and understanding.

Here’s something interesting: The human brain adapts to how it is being taught, a child that doesn’t learn language (and there have been some cases of abuse where children have not learned language) will have a mind that works differentially, even the physical shape of the brain is different.

(One such case involved a small girl who was kept in near total isolation for over seven years of her life, she never learned language, and was never able too. Even the part of the brain which neurologists think is responsible for language was physically small and undeveloped.)

Learning to read, to think, to listen to music, even learning how to control our bodies when dancing changes our minds and brains. In any case, savants tell us something about intelligence and neurology, something we can possibly use.

The brain and mind remain a somewhat mysterious thing as of yet; the idea that we have untapped resources is exiting.

- Ryan Alger

Again, there is so much to talk about, but this is all I can write at this moment. I wanted to bring up the book ‘Brain Hacks’, which despite being flawed is interesting.

Also, supposedly one could train oneself to have an incredible memory; there are a couple interesting books out there (which I forget the name of, but will look for, they have to do with the Memory palace.)

And there still the interesting thing involved in meditation. Ignore the new-age mumbo-jumbo concerning it, there some compelling evidence that meditation can radically alter the workings of the brain.

The mind/body connection is also interesting; As well as the relationship between thought and behavior (why does a golfer get ‘in the zone’ sometimes and not at others, and more importantly, can we tap into this?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I honestly don't see what is so great about all the 'superhuman' abilities displayed by idiot-savants: what I see is a damaged mind that instead of functioning in a healthy conceptual way, operates like a lifeless computer, capable of rapidly recording and transmitting vast amounts raw data.

The point is that it's amazing to see the capacity of the human mind.

I referenced, over a year ago, a guy who could remember pi to an astounding number of digits, pages worth, with complete accuracy. It took hours, IIRC, for him to recite it. He was able to learn Icelandic, a very difficult language, in an extremely short period of time. To top it off, he was normal otherwise. He had no real deficiencies. It's astounding to me that a human mind can do that, because our minds don't normally function that way.

It makes me wonder if we can tap into this in some way and solve more complex problems.

The point I was making was not to romanticize their abilities, but I do agree it is amazing in the sense of being shocking and surprising.

I once read about an idiot-savant who could instantly calendar calculate--that is, you could say to him "February 23rd, 1965" and within an instant he could tell you what day of the week that was!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I referenced, over a year ago, a guy who could remember pi to an astounding number of digits, pages worth, with complete accuracy. It took hours, IIRC, for him to recite it. He was able to learn Icelandic, a very difficult language, in an extremely short period of time. To top it off, he was normal otherwise. He had no real deficiencies.

This reminds me of the Far Side cartoon: Boy raises his hand in class. "Can I be excused? My brain is full."

While obviously it would be extremely cool to have that kind of ready memory, some open questions are:

-- Is there anything else in such a brain that is being traded-off for that ability? Most savants are anything but normal, as functioning human beings.

-- Regarding the joke I quoted, everything that exists is finite. If memory can be filled so easily with undigested minutiae, how long can that really last? Maybe it's like storing books with high resolution bitmap scans rather than converting to text; radically more inefficient and radically less useful, and it's sure going to fill up a hard disk more quickly. We don't know the limits of the human brain but I suspect that somebody who can readily memorize phone books or Pi to a million decimal places or the skyline of London at a glance, is filling up brain capacity at a staggering rate. One interesting experiment would be to see if such savants can still recall something like that, randomly chosen by somebody else, when they're 60, while still being able to do great memorization feats. Whether they can, or not, should say a lot about the actual limits of memory.

If such feats of memory were genius, then the guy you mention and other savants would be the greatest geniuses of all time. Yet the question is what they've really done of any utility with such abilities, and I've yet to hear of anything in that regard except for quasi-photorealistic "art". Ayn Rand did not have the memory ability of a supercomputer but what she had was much more powerful.

I am not saying that brain augmentation wouldn't be great, *if* it's comprehensive and actually made you smarter without unreasonable tradeoffs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I honestly don't see what is so great about all the 'superhuman' abilities displayed by idiot-savants: what I see is a damaged mind that instead of functioning in a healthy conceptual way, operates like a lifeless computer, capable of rapidly recording and transmitting vast amounts raw data.

I think it’s the possibility that these abilities might lay dormant inside normal human brains; and that they might be discovered and used.

If the greatest of minds in history weren't able to unlock these 'superhuman' feats of mental capacity, how is a healthy human being today going to do it? And furthermore, why should we need to? Newton didn't need to be able to memorize the dictionary from one reading to produce his work in Physics, nor did Ayn Rand to produce the world changing work she has done. We need to be productive human beings, not computers.
For instance, I could have saved many hours of my life if I could memorize an entire textbook of information in a single sitting (savants have been known to memorize huge amounts of information flawlessly in a small amount of time.)
Even if you memorized a textbook in a single sitting, you still haven't learned anything. You haven't digested, understood and integrated concepts, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
While obviously it would be extremely cool to have that kind of ready memory, some open questions are:

-- Is there anything else in such a brain that is being traded-off for that ability? Most savants are anything but normal, as functioning human beings.

-- Regarding the joke I quoted, everything that exists is finite. If memory can be filled so easily with undigested minutiae, how long can that really last? Maybe it's like storing books with high resolution bitmap scans rather than converting to text; radically more inefficient and radically less useful, and it's sure going to fill up a hard disk more quickly. We don't know the limits of the human brain but I suspect that somebody who can readily memorize phone books or Pi to a million decimal places or the skyline of London at a glance, is filling up brain capacity at a staggering rate. One interesting experiment would be to see if such savants can still recall something like that, randomly chosen by somebody else, when they're 60, while still being able to do great memorization feats. Whether they can, or not, should say a lot about the actual limits of memory.

That’s a worrying thought. Though I once heard a "factoid" that turned the human memory capacity into terabytes, it turned out to be an astounding number (though I don’t know how they did this, sense we don’t know yet how memory works or is stored.)

I remember the character Sherlock Holmes mentioning that he purposely avoids information that he doesn’t find useful to his profession, because “only a fool would clutter the attic of his mind.”

Here’s another issue: my computer needs constant maintenance in how it deals with information, I need to clean the registry, defrag it, est.; does the brain need help like this as well? Some scientist think sleep provides this function, of organizing and “defragging” our information, that why the brain begins to fall apart without sleep.

I remember reading a paper, which I will try to find, which argued that human intelligence can’t get much better then it is now. The reason for this is because complex systems can’t deal with themselves, the more complex, the more corrupted and prone to failure; just like a government bureaucracy, it falls apart. It is an interesting read, I don’t agree with it, but it’s interesting.

- Ryan

P.S. – people have argued that we will soon use external devices from most of our memorizations, like cameras in our eyes that hook up to a computer. People claim that recording information in a cell phone or PDA is the beginning of this trend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If the greatest of minds in history weren't able to unlock these 'superhuman' feats of mental capacity, how is a healthy human being today going to do it? And furthermore, why should we need to? Newton didn't need to be able to memorize the dictionary from one reading to produce his work in Physics, nor did Ayn Rand to produce the world changing work she has done. We need to be productive human beings, not computers.

The ability to reason is of course more important then the various abilities displayed by savants. But our ability to be productive would be greatly be improved if we where able to integrate these abilities.

Having a textbook of information available to me 24/7 would help me understand faster, less reference and memorization means more time on understanding.

Even if Newton couldn’t find these answers doesn’t mean they are not there (he didn’t, for instance, discover the electromagnetic spectrum.) The question here is weather or nor these abilities can be integrated into normal human consciences (reason included.)

There was a time that humans existed without advanced ideas, like logic and concepts; human thinking was improved by these things drastically, with them we where able to take the next steps; like invention, advanced art, and the written word.

It’s conceivable that we could find new ways to use our minds that could drastically improve them.

It’s also conceivable, given current trends, that we will eventually change, rebuild, and improve upon the brain. Some things would go first, no more autism, dementia, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia; and then we might move on actually manipulating and advancing the brain (some say that nanotechnologies will beat biological engineering.)

Keep in mind that there are reasons some people are smarter then others (accounting for personal choice, ability to reason, est.) why some people can learn a new language in a matter of weeks and others years, why I can visualize objects better then my sister, why a person may be able to instantly master physical abilities (like dancing or golfing) while most of us can’t, why Mozart could instantly memorize any tune and repeat it at the age of six. We will likely discover the answers to these mysteries in the not-too-distant future; what we do with this information is up to us.

Reason and logic will always remain the most important component to intelligence, no matter how advanced; without them, everything else is useless. :rolleyes:

- Ryan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has there ever been a case of someone without autism who could do similar things? And is there any correlation between the degree of autism and the skill in memory and recall?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Has there ever been a case of someone without autism who could do similar things? And is there any correlation between the degree of autism and the skill in memory and recall?

I think a couple people are mentioned on this thread, of people with incredible abilities who lived normal lives.

Mozart supposedly had an incredible memory when it came to music; but this is unconfirmed (Leonardo Di Vinci was supposedly unusually gifted in some of these areas.)

I have also heard of people that could speed read incredible fast, or recall any verse from the bible instantly, or claim to have photographic memory, children that have far beyond average musical or mathematical ability (able to calculate huge numbers in their head, or seemingly understand mathematical concepts instantly.) And though it is not generally regarded as intelligence, there are tons of ‘physical geniuses” out there, people who have an above average control of there bodies.

Though, I have to stress that we don’t quite know where these abilities come from or how they work. A person could have trained themselves to remember things using pneumonic tricks or visualization, while another can memorize something instantly with no effort; these two people would appear to have the same ability, though the mental processes would probably be much different.

-Ryan

P.S. – One theory as to why idiot-savants can do these things better is because they are ‘undistracted’, they are usually obsessed with only a few things, forgoing everything else.

Not only do they have these natural skills, but they devote a huge amount of metal energy towered them and their obsessions. While a normal person with these abilities would “spread out” their mental capacity, limiting how impressive they are in one area (like drawing London from memory) but being much more useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Take a look at this amazing picture, drawn by an autistic artist after a single helicopter flight over London:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/arti...66&ito=1490

Autistic people are sometimes known to have unlocked very powerful mental capacities in other areas of brain activity (think Rain Man). What more could be locked away in our own minds? And what's more important, where is it coming from? Why don't we have these powers now? Laziness and unwillingness to train?

That is actually a myth. Only about 0.5% if autistics have savant abilities. Much like the general population.

The so called intelligence of Autistics is primarily given rise because they lack the desire (or need) of much interpersonal contact and so devote large tracts of time to their specific areas of interest. Where those interests intersect employable tasks... you'll not find a more qualified employee.

I'd encourage people to find out some more truth about Autism than what has been bandied about so far. As an aside, it was "world autism awareness day" on April 2nd. Not that I condone anything by the UN, and 1 in 94 boys is a bit rich as a statistic... but still... just letting y'all know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Has there ever been a case of someone without autism who could do similar things? And is there any correlation between the degree of autism and the skill in memory and recall?
There are many people with eidetic memory, more commonly called "photographic memory." My brother used to be able to literally read a text in his mind, seeing exactly where the reference was on that page, turning pages, etc. I had a cousin who could do the same. My brother said the ability declined with age, but it sure helped in school.

I think the key was how easy it was for him. He studied hard, but, with this ability, he just read and the image was bright and clear in his mind for later easy recall. I had a similar experience with musical scores, but only when I'd studied with extreme concentration and repetition. Maybe it's primarily and issue of the ability to focus. I'm a bit ADD most of the time, but, when I can make myself focus, I can sometimes get that eidetic effect. By the way, the 'eidetic' terminology is used, rather than the 'photographic' one, because some people have facility for sounds (perfect pitch), or smells, or touch, not just vision. I zipped through analytic chemistry because I'd memorized the smells of most of the major chemicals they were having us identify. While others were looking at peaks on a chromatograph, I took a sniff, said 'benzaldehyde', and used the equipment just to confirm what I already knew. Much faster. :rolleyes: I think it was because I loved to cook. I had a 40-piece spice rack and memorized the contents by their smells, color, and texture, then took the labels off. I can still usually determine the contents of a mixture by a sniff.

This guy was drawing from a very early age. It is his language, the way his brain maps the visual world. It's somewhat like perfect pitch and very much like photographic memory, just x10 because he doesn't clutter up his brain with much else... like introspection or empathy. My sister is autistic and very smart, if not a savant. Everything is right there, cut and dried. If you were an artist and were able to look at the London skyline and just see the skyline, without thinking "Hey, Herrod's! I've gotta remember to go there!" and then think about the cool coat you bought there last time you were here... "wasn't that last winter; damn it was cold..." I'd bet you could draw the thing from memory. I think we're talking focus here. We are bombarded with and respond to so much, and sift it and consider it, and think about its relevance, etc. I'm fine with that. I'll just snap a photo. Then I can go on with the rest of my life... because there is a rest of it to go to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are many people with eidetic memory, more commonly called "photographic memory." My brother used to be able to literally read a text in his mind, seeing exactly where the reference was on that page, turning pages, etc. I had a cousin who could do the same.

So could I.

My brother said the ability declined with age, but it sure helped in school.

It sure helped me. It was also useful when playing Trivial Pursuit and on TV quiz shows like Jeopardy! Other than that, it is a completely useless ability.

Stephen had no such ability to remember things but he was incredible in maintaining focus and "stick-to-itivity" on tasks with very little short-term payoffs. He enjoyed, and was very good at, games like chess which I have little interest in nor patience for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
By the way, the 'eidetic' terminology is used, rather than the 'photographic' one, because some people have facility for sounds (perfect pitch), or smells, or touch, not just vision.

Well this demonstrates just how powerful my memory is, because of course I knew about photographic memory and perfect pitch, and neither occurred to me when I asked the question. :rolleyes:

How long could your brother remember the text in the book? One of my problems is retaining concrete examples. I will remember the arguments of what I read, but I have a lot of trouble remembering the details of the examples used. It's why history has always been my worst subject. I just have a terrible time retaining names, places and dates. I'd love to be able to just consult the page in my mind and get the specifics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How long could your brother remember the text in the book? One of my problems is retaining concrete examples. I will remember the arguments of what I read, but I have a lot of trouble remembering the details of the examples used. It's why history has always been my worst subject. I just have a terrible time retaining names, places and dates. I'd love to be able to just consult the page in my mind and get the specifics.
According to my cousin and my brother, they could read something once and recall it at will weeks later. It's different than typical memory, which I think isn't a bad thing. Typically, when we are learning, what we do is almost immediately integrative; we learn the fact, mull it over, classify it, and integrate it into our knowledge of that subject. The fact that you've essentially paraphrased and modified that knowledge makes it hard to untangle the original information and spit it back verbatim. One might even say that the verbatim approach indicates a lack of true learning.

There are exceptions, absolutely. As an actor/singer, the audience isn't going to be thrilled if I give them a discourse on how Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville is essentially a giant comprimario/comic role, rather than the archetypal hero of the Romantic era... they want to hear the damned arias and ensembles, delivered inflected, but accurately. They want to hear Rossini's music. They want to hear Shakespeare's Othello, not a loose paraphrase, or a treatise on irrational jealousy, or the difficulties of interracial marriage in Moorish Spain. :rolleyes:

They are two different things. My eidetic relatives had both capabilities -- they're smart people, not autists (made that up). That eidetic memory just seems to be a facility for filing things as-is, without editorializing. That integrative process, though, is actually the more important process in handling new information and that's what will get you the furthest. This artist has done well, better than most Autistic people, but Dick Feynman, the physicist, who criticized a biologist for memorizing an entire chromosome, did just fine without a photographic memory. He said, in commenting on this guy's feat of memorization (I think in "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman"), that it was just a waste of effort, cluttering up the mind with a lot of facts he could just refer to in a book. He was an advocate of thinking, of integration, not of memorization, whether facile and photographic or via hard work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a couple new subjects:

Meditation

Yeah, there’s a bunch of crap around meditation, but there is also some interesting evidence that suggests it does radically alter the brain (evidence which has, admittedly, been way overemphasized by new-age types.) People who are masters of a certain type of meditation claim that they are able to lose their own sense of self (that they are the thinker of their own thoughts.) This is cross-cultural, and has been claimed by many; of course, so have UFO abductions.

A scientist gave an explanation for this,when reading brain wave patters of a person meditating, he noticed that the part of the brain responsible for coordination, that controls your bodies reference to its environment, was strangely not active; he said that this could be responsible for the feeling of ‘Selflessness.’

In this scenario, Zen meditation is parallel with brain damage; a kind of self-induced drug. There have also been widespread reports of people hallucinated while in a state of intense meditation.

Still, the idea that the mind, in some way, can control its own behavior is interesting. Though it shouldn’t be all that surprising, after all, sleep is a somewhat self-induced mental state that is profoundly different from waking.

Mind and Body

Even the best athletes in the world can’t maintain perfect consistency; especially in sports that involve a lot of variables and concentration, like golf. A person’s mood and thoughts drastically affects performance. I think this is the reason that athletes tend to be a bit superstitious.

Failure begets failure, and subsequently success begets success; why do athletes sometimes get ‘in the zone’ or ‘on fire’, and other times not? Most of the time this can’t be traced back to a physical reason; case and point, a person’s subconscious and conscious states can drastically affect their physical performance.

When we get angry or embarrassed we flush; our mouths water at even the thought of food; our skin can crawl if we think of something disgusting; mental arousal has its own physical affects. The brain has an incredible power over the human body, but most of this power remains in the subconscious, and is only triggered by conscious action.

There are extreme examples of people claiming they can control the rhythm of their heartbeat or their body temperature, but these are unconfirmed.

Real life (confirmed) examples are far more interesting. A hypochondriac can begin to experience symptoms of an illness they don’t have; and of course, there is the classic placebo effect. There have been cases where a mind has nearly destroyed its body.

If we where able to control our bodies more consciously, the way we can control our breathing if we want to, this would drastically improve our physical abilities, and maybe even our mental ones.

Though I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

- Ryan

This is all I can write right now, I'll post more subjects later. Coming up: Intuition, Brain Hacks, Chemicals and the Brian, How the Body Affects the Mind, Mental Tricks, Expectations, More Weird Mental Disorders and damage (like people who have half their brain removed.) And much, much more! :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Meditation

Yeah, there’s a bunch of crap around meditation, but there is also some interesting evidence that suggests it does radically alter the brain (evidence which has, admittedly, been way overemphasized by new-age types.) People who are masters of a certain type of meditation claim that they are able to lose their own sense of self (that they are the thinker of their own thoughts.) This is cross-cultural, and has been claimed by many; of course, so have UFO abductions.

A scientist gave an explanation for this,when reading brain wave patters of a person meditating, he noticed that the part of the brain responsible for coordination, that controls your bodies reference to its environment, was strangely not active; he said that this could be responsible for the feeling of ‘Selflessness.’

In this scenario, Zen meditation is parallel with brain damage; a kind of self-induced drug. There have also been widespread reports of people hallucinated while in a state of intense meditation.

Still, the idea that the mind, in some way, can control its own behavior is interesting. Though it shouldn’t be all that surprising, after all, sleep is a somewhat self-induced mental state that is profoundly different from waking.

I practiced Zen meditation for some years.* I have no idea what the sensation of "losing oneself" or "stopping thought" (another goal of Zen and other forms of Eastern meditation) feel like, because I never achieved either of those states, if, indeed, they are attainable. I do recall it being calming and mentally refreshing, a sort of conscious rest.

There is a Zen monastery in the Catskills of New York (absolutely gorgeous place, on Beecher Lake in the middle of land once owned by Harriet Beecher Stowe's family) that I used to visit on occasion for a weekend. I remember one of the students (or whatever you'd call them, she wasn't yet a monk) who lived there telling me that she once asked the abbott what went through his mind during meditation, and he replied that he usually spent the time planning his day. The meditation sessions at the monastery were, once I got over my self-consciousness (no pun intended), very peaceful and relaxing, but again I never got anything more out of them.

I'd say there can be value in meditation if your purpose is not mystical.

*On Zen: I studied it a number of years before finding Objectivism. It's suggestive that what attracted me to Zen were its principles that, interpreted as I interpreted them, were closest to Objectivist ideas, primarily the notion of seeing existence for what it really is and not what one wishes or imagines it to be. That means something quite different in Zen than in Objectivism, but in retrospect I realize that I was, without realizing it, interpreting it the right way. Of course, there's a LOT of Zen that belongs in the dump heap, especially as it's practiced vs. how it's explained to the "layman." For example, the chanting done before the meditation was full of stupidity (and I thought so even then).

If you follow the above link, you'll see a picture of the very room I meditated in. :rolleyes: There are more pictures on their web site. They even run the former Beecher house there as a sort of bed and breakfast. Maybe it sounds like I'm advertising the place a bit, but, religion aside, it really is incredibly beautiful there.

The abbott that the Wikipedia article mentions, Eido Tai Shimano, peronally created a beautiful work of Japanese calligraphy for me on one of my visits, which I still have. Interestingly, it says "You are the light," which, again interpreted properly, is in my opinion a fine sentiment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Failure begets failure, and subsequently success begets success; why do athletes sometimes get ‘in the zone’ or ‘on fire’, and other times not? Most of the time this can’t be traced back to a physical reason; case and point, a person’s subconscious and conscious states can drastically affect their physical performance.

I disagree with the idea that failure begets failure, and subsequently success begets success. Based on my experience as a snowboard instructor and a training director, and many similiar experiences, I know that failure is the effect not the cause. I specifically teach and train to failure so that I can identify weaknesses and make the apropriate changes. In fact some of my own personal failures ( some have been fairly significant and life changing), have led to some of the more important successes in my life and had it not been for those failures future success would not have been possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Failure begets failure, and subsequently success begets success; why do athletes sometimes get ‘in the zone’ or ‘on fire’, and other times not? Most of the time this can’t be traced back to a physical reason; case and point, a person’s subconscious and conscious states can drastically affect their physical performance.

I disagree with the idea that failure begets failure, and subsequently success begets success. Based on my experience as a snowboard instructor and a training director, and many similiar experiences, I know that failure is the effect not the cause. I specifically teach and train to failure so that I can identify weaknesses and make the apropriate changes. In fact some of my own personal failures ( some have been fairly significant and life changing), have led to some of the more important successes in my life and had it not been for those failures future success would not have been possible.

I agree. It was the failure of training 6 times a week for 3 hours per session with very little returns that allowed me to make changes that has lead me to the success I have now. It was the failure of not making the JV basketball team as a freshman that lead me to try out for the freshman team and make it as the last player chosen by the coach. By the end of that season I was the sixth man, by the following year I was starting on the JV basketball team. Failure can always come, it is what you do when it does that counts, you either choose to rise up or lie down, I cannot fathom the latter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites