Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Dark Frontier

According to researchers at Harvard studying inactive portions of the mind, human beings engage in time travel. More startling than that is the idea that it is the dominant reality in the pie chart of how we spend our waking hours.

As evolved creatures, we not only have a shorter learning curve when acting based on past experiences, but are able to project ourselves into scenarios in future-time to "try on" that reality. What scientists call the "dark frontier" of our minds will take us back in full-sensory mode to the moment we touched a hot stove. Despite the fact that our bodies and minds are moving forward, one second at a time, our minds have the capacity to remember far more than a conditioned Pavlovian response. In much the same way, when we indulge in thoughts of flipping off the boss or slip into imagined scenarios of acceptance speeches for the Pulitzer, we are projecting our every emotion and setting the sensory stage to experience what it has to offer.

And the present time? The active part of our brain is triggered again by immediate sensory input. An alarm ringing. Someone walking up to your desk to ask a question. While most people profess to "live in the moment", it seems it happens far less than even they are aware of. It's not until the past or future thoughts are interrupted that we even aware time travel has taken place.

I suspect writers spend more of their day in alternate time zones than anyone else. Because we travel though life with heightened awareness of details and impressions, ready to access when we sit with pen to paper, it makes us more likely to revisit and study both significant and insignificant moments or project plot lines of our own lives for dramatic effect.

Makes for a great line, doesn't it? The next time someone walks in and catches you at your desk staring off into nothingness, tell them you're a time traveler to the dark frontier. Bet they'll think twice about interrupting again.

More about the Harvard study.

1 comment:

Marilyn Brant said...

I love this part about how indulging in certain thoughts and slipping into imagined scenarios gets us "...projecting our every emotion and setting the sensory stage to experience what it has to offer." You're right--those kinds of memories (or visualizations) are so powerful, they DO feel like time travel. (Although I'd just as soon never be 15 again. :)