Monday, August 04, 2008


We are what we don’t shit.
—— Peter Bretz, Philosopher, Moviemaker (1938 -)

What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger
—— Friedric Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

As I have learned to do from commenters’ taking a word out of my context and running off to feed it to their herd of cyclopses, or wherever it is they go with it, I looked up the word metabolism just to be sure there weren’t meanings hidden in the thesaurus or wikipedia which would tend to lead my reader astray. Well, folks, I was flabbergasted to learn that the use I have often put it to lies only peripherally relative to its strict definition: the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. In other words, eating and defecating. The stretch I make with it is born of the necessity that no synonyms exist covering the sensory processes with which we feed perception of existence to our developing wisdom to be both digested for its mental nutrition and shat for its useless repetition of familiar information and gestated for birth of new ideas.

As a mechanical engineer I often relied upon a Wollensak high speed movie camera to capture and slow down the dynamic process of single keystrokes when testing the Selectric keyboard. Thus expanded I could examine and compare the relative harmony of purpose and the cacophony of unwilling inertia to the particular jostling choir of parts involved in, say, typing a question mark by watching the operation with a synchronized audio recording in an anechoic chamber keeping track of the ten thousand feet per second of film that burst through the camera. I developed a system whereby I could match the peak sound waves on an oscilloscope to the natural frequency of the offending part to indicate a way to not only quieten the overall machine but correct the misuse of the screaming part being thus worn out. These techniques for peeking outside normal human perception serve our sensory system in the same way certain nutrition serves to expand our experience of metabolic breakdown through our alimentary system. Playing the film back at normal projector speed expands the duration of the split second operation by three hundred times the time it took so that watching a sturdy little one eighth of an inch thick slab of steel quiver and quake like Santa’s belly as it rings out a gong louder than all the rest with a peak ten times higher than the rest of the group was a trip that has led me to ponder this phenomenon of expanded sensory perception ever since.

Ah, there’s the gateway to drugs now — curiosity, take a bow. Sprinkle a little prohibition on it and you have a gourmet’s especiale for the appetite of any healthy curiosity. This experience and the curious cafeteria conversation with fellow employees’ being so confused about what has happened to their teenagers since we all transferred from Lexington, KY to Austin certainly lead to my opening the gate. Being in Austin made it quite convenient, but I digress, heh, heh.

Normal human perception is said to have a lower limit of one thirtieth of a second, which prevents our realizing the existence of any entity whose life span is less than that unless aided by such devices as that high speed camera. The upper limit to our perceptions is our death — or our antsy attention span, whichever comes first.

a taken
blind spot smack in the middle where
the curiosity is forbidden, for only fear
of god
But we

Several years ago a friend turned me on to David Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants: Six hours of video employing the extreme patience of time lapse photography allow access to a virtual and literal secret world normally perceived to be anchored and static unless blown by the wind. One sees a delicate tendril of a vine scan the surrounding space for a toe hold which, when secured, becomes a fast anchor for the slender cord to muscle up its tiny bicep and twirl a double ended helix to shorten its span and draw the main stem up with it and tossing in the best shock absorber money can’t buy, as a natural bonus. I watch chapters every so often just to remind myself that I must slow down more to catch up to nature.

I’ve posted about noticing a lifeless clod of garden soil rise and roll several inches from the unfolding of a squash seed leaf seeking sol as a calibration on how slow I’ve actually become when all of nature’s variations do not distract me from their theme but rather focus me on its immensity and karmic consistency.

Another measure of this is taken by how friends visiting from the “real world” of the city seem to arrive with the metabolism of a fly on a flit. They normally depressurize and mellow out before zipping back up in their isolation chambers for the return trip, but it always seems too soon. There may be a touch of the ol’ absence and the fonder heart schtick in there as well. I know I appreciate visits more now than when I was more convenient to drop in on.

I am for any method of expanding my consciousness of and rapport with more variations of existence by any means short of altering the natural existence of the subjects observed. Yes. I am for any technology from better tele and micro scopes, high and low speed cameras, infrared and ultraviolet exceeders, to chemical and naturally occurring organic mind expanders, solitary meditation and group music production so long as it is free of exploitation for private profit; a motive that always results in eventually bending truth to its purpose.

These photographic and audio recording techniques are only rumors of tips of icebergs in fields we haven’t even discovered the possibility of existing much less developing sensitivity to. Besides the sights and sounds dilated by time already mentioned there is size; from quarks to the body whose double helix DNA is being revealed by plotting galaxies such as distance; from the core of our being around the universe to the back of our head, temperature; from dust at absolute zero to no one can define how hot, density; from a vacuum to a black hole, and on and on.

Somehow I understand, rather than standing on the shore looking at pretty shells while the entire ocean lies before me as some old wise guy once described his life to be, I am discovering the colors that go with numbers inside lines already etched in a genetic memory inherited from infinite existences experiencing the same nature in all parts of the universe. Maybe.


Minx said...

I also live in a part of my own country that induces a 'stop and smell the roses' on those living in the highly constipating world of speed.

My latest city visitor hit the ground running last Saturday. It took her two days to mellow and when she went home she said 'thanks for letting me remember how it should be'.
What she probably doesn't realise is that it is a kind of remembering for me as well.

Yodood said...

Certainly a reminder to be glad you're there along with any other.

Kurt Vonnegut's Uncle, who he creditted as being the wisest man he ever knew, would slap his knee and declare, "If this isn't a good time, I don't know what is," right out of the blue of a suddenly good time.

leslie said...

Years ago I read Tompkins and Byrd's, The Secret Life of Plants. One of my all time favorites.

And is it you I should thank for all those years of enjoying the "feel" of my Selectric? How cool...

Yodood said...

Hi Leslie, I read that also. I often flash on his having a garage door opener operated by a galvanometer hooked up to a plant that could sense his approach.

The funny thing about the feel of your Selectric: it would have been even smoother but it was made artificially hard to keep typists from getting disoriented without the "detent" feel.

Anonymous said...

That's funny about the garage door opener...we thought about training the dog to press the button when he heard the car approach, but figured he would let in any old body with a car like ours :)

The Selectric made a nice click when the key was pressed. When I had to switch to a Sharp, it clicked when the key was released. Drove me crazy ...crazier.

Aha! So it was you!

leslie said...

Oops! Pressed the key too soon. I am not anonymous.