14th August 1999
Didn't write for a month, since my journal got left behind on the phone
kiosk at gate 46A in LAX. Didn't miss it, worse than that, have lost confidence
- just realized I could call it that - which has never happened, though
I've written dull anxious journals. The lost journal was the one started
after I broke up with Tom. It had Borrego and the trip back, trying to write,
coming back broke. Is it true I hardly care that it's lost, was there anything
in it I miss. The photo of Rowen on the cover.
This paragraph: there's no reason it should exist. Maybe I should take
it that writing should shift, or has shifted.
I am writing to see what happens, but it is as if my living doesn't feel
it needs it now. That was a big sigh.
It's not that I know everything without it. It's not that I have stronger
consciousness in the moment - less, maybe. I'm not sure I have the unconscious
residue to be examined later, which is what it mostly was. A strong, I want
to say lateral, registration that was isolated maybe, not part of the system
that acts. Really it's that - I don't feel a residue. Not having that residue
feels skimpier as existence. I don't think it's that the moment has more
integrated in it. I feel and notice less. It scares me to say this - a thinner
weaker more ordinary consciousness - I think - here the book says no I am
more integrated - but, I say, everything that happened with Tom in San Diego,
I feel the significance of so little. I have so little of the strong memory
I used to have, isn't that a loss of consciousness? Yes it says. Is there
a gain? Yes, end of nightmare. So I've traded the end of crashes for a flatter
existence. Yes. That's what integration does? Yes.
Eight in the morning, sun flat through the east window, through the bedroom
door, into the hall. My house has its charms of color back, the wretched
grubbiness is less. The broken wall above the stairs got patched while I
was away. When doors and windows are open in all directions and on different
levels it is an airy high platform holding up a few good shapes in sweet
colors. Yellow door, blue wall, red embroidered rug, dark green fig tree.
You phoned in the last of the evening light. You ask how was my day.
I'm not used to it yet. I tell you, I'm pleased to tell you, but I still
hurry my story as if you'll change your mind. You say something snapped
into place, you can stay in the moment, stay with me. Then I feel, oh goodness
is it true, do I have this lovely man.
Your story is about biking along the Silver Strand and seeing marine
light. You sound delicious, I say, you sound happy. King Charming, who can
facilitate other people's charm. What a reward for faithful work.
Now my heart's stirred up into joyful love - I don't know what to do
A cog sci conference. Compare it, oh, to an experimental film conference,
where there are visible and seeing souls walking around -
Two days experimenting with dressing up. Today I wore the pale green
suit, which looks like silk or very light linen and is beautifully cut at
the back of the waist. I wore it with the cuffs rolled over my new red Converse
sneakers, black jersey without a bra and my hair down. I'm still tan and
trim. I looked stunning. I knew this conference was not particularly a place
to look stunning but I wanted to go for it while I can, before winter and
head work put me back into podge. Yesterday I was leading up to it with
my funeral clothes, the black pants and sand-colored version of the beautifully
cut jacket, and the black jersey backwards, with my docs. I'm embarrassed
to talk about what I wore but today I was more dressed up than I have been
since the green silk Afghani coat - 1976, maybe, when I cut off my hair.
Looking stunning made me more self conscious, less approachable, only
slightly more noticed, and what else - less depressed by being unimportant
maybe? I don't know what to conclude. It's like walking around in a shield.
It's okay. It's only glamour and is being seen as that - I mean it isn't
value, which is the real thing, a good state. Though there's a way this
kind of glamour is a good state. What way? It shows self pleasure and adventure,
but of a pop culture kind. It says, you people are ignoring both being and
seeing visible bodies, but I'm saying, I'm here and you are too.
But nobody was returning my flash and saying you're here and I am too.
Rick Grush, large man with trimmed beard and knob of a ponytail, Paul Churchland's
doc student who wrote about motor simulation, moved on stage as if delivering
a talk was tai chi - he'd keep bringing himself back to center, feet together,
hands touching each other symmetrically at his chest. His right arm would
make strong forays and then he'd step into center again. This would happen
over an unusually wide area of the stage. Beautiful and unusual.
Compare Schwartz or Rosenthal, neurotic little clerics of the sensation-perception
distinction. Rosenthal was jerking robotically between two points. Schwartz
was stroking the fuzz on his bald forehead like a nursing baby.
Yesterday Mr Choy's funeral at the funeral chapel on Dunleavy. Uniform
black, people's clothes and their hair too. His widow sobbed through the
service. Faint taped organ music sounded as if from behind curtains. A taped
soloist singing Amazing grace and Coming home, tape presumably
provided by the funeral parlour to anyone without soloist resources. The
singer drew out the ends of the words on the last lines of both songs to
signal that the song was about to end, a stupid effect. Why, exactly. Because
apart from signaling what doesn't need to be signaled, the singer lost what
intelligence there had been in her sound when she stretched it obedient
to another kind of instruction. There's more I haven't got.
The minister spoke in Chinese about everlasting life, which insults the
community probably accurately. The ritual that followed was from another
kind of tradition. People I thought must be officials of the four tongs
Mr Choy had belonged to, took hold of a wreath, in turn, waved it toward
the coffin in three circling motions as if wafting flower essence toward
the corpse, and then bowed three times and stepped out of the way. Wallace
as oldest son delivered a eulogy in which he called his father a great man.
Meantime I had a few times been able to recall Mr Choy's face as he'd stand
on the porch waiting with my receipt while I came to open the door.
The last motion of the service was the realest, a shocking moment when
the white funeral official stepped up and opened the top half of the coffin.
It was like an Eleusinian showing of the mystery there was Mr Choy's
face dead, polished and compacted the way it had begun to be in his illness.
At this point everyone attending was funneled past the mystery to bow
once or three times according to some rule I don't know - first the people
who'd come too late to find a place in the chapel, then those standing at
the back, then the pew-sitters from back to front, which left those most
affected to watch everyone else step into the spot where they faced the
corpse and acknowledged it as fact. That individual facing and acknowledging
and then departing by a side door from the house of death is very exact,
and it was perfectly completed in the way, as we left, we were received
by two gatekeepers just beyond the sill and given a gift by one of them
- an envelope containing, it turned out, two wrapped candies and a dollar
coin. We stood about on the pavement sucking our candies, which restored
us after the shock of facing what we'd faced. My solar plex was buzzing
and the candy actually calmed it, but I left the coin on a fire hose connector
on the Hotel Patricia wall - not to take bribes from death.
How much I don't like reading neuropsychology - monkey and rat experiments.
It is laborious it seems to me to no purpose. I feel so claustrophobic down
in the rat cage that I make a dash for the conclusion of the paper. The
lists of authors make me feel the crush of thousands of experimenters struggling
to be noticed. Conferences without end, all the dull clothes and heavy briefcases,
a blind suffocated milling.
What else doesn't work. I've put my papers on the web where they look
beautiful, or will with very little fixing, but they are inert and elsewhere
and don't involve me in action. The poems even less, they seem nothing at
Whatever I do, I want success, I don't want to be isolated. Success is
what gives movement. And yet I've been careful not to be successful at something
that will bring irrelevant movement.
I make lists of what I want in work, lists of my gifts. It looks like
I'm an executive now. I'd like to have an organization doing what I decide.
But at the bottom the organization needs to be making beauty, and giving
people more ability to be beauty. That's the part that I can't see.
Beauty is already made. People can only be beauty when they are what's
right to be. I thought I could defend the very idea of contact that
was my notion of this work Paul and Pat are doing that. And it does
not look as if I'll have a way to get to a place in the arena where I could
do what they do. In film I did work to support and build contact, but experimental
film in that spirit is no more. Le Guin can go on doing it in fiction. I
have had such temperament problems with film doing the technical parts.
I no longer think I am writing a book.
The tiny person in her motorized cart: she's the size of a doll or an
eighteen-month-old, perched on a high shelf of the machine that is relative
to her the size of a Narboni or a large forklift. She wears a tiny dress
with her tiny thin legs poking out from under the hem. Her hair is permed.
She's a young woman. I once heard her speak, a voice thinner and higher
than any child's. She's a student, I don't know in what department.
What about her. Curiosity I can't satisfy by asking. What is it like
to be so far from human alikeness. She is not a dwarf; she is much smaller
than that. She will likely never read or see an account of anyone like herself.
How can a body so unable to defend itself set up order in a brain made
for other conditions? How can a person so inept be intelligent? Is she a
sort of demonstration of body/mind separability? Does she think on the basis
of structure hard-wired into a brain that is insignificantly different from
In email a piece about G factor, a biological factor, highest-order common
factor, found by correlation analysis. Highly correlated with intelligence
are: working memory, reaction times, perceptual speed, heritability, evoked
potentials, conduction velocity, glucose metabolic rate. Seems to say intelligence
is a cellular quality - which would make it visible in the whole of a body.
This day turned all the way around. There was meeting Bjorn's wife Michael
in the department. But then what there really was, was the teaching, two
hours full strength standing and delivering. I'm very easy in it. Strong,
strong. On the way home shopped to bring back a big box of food for me and
Rowen. Ro was here with Jim. They found the sound at the back of the computer,
Ro had worked his two hours after I went to school. He looked nice in the
black fleece Benetton top I got 'im. I'm done for the week. He started Dune
and likes it. Tom is coming. Ate steak and mashed potatoes and Greek salad,
which Rowen liked. I'm feeding him. But here was the best. Sharif phoned.
I said, Have you talked to Luke? He said, Fifteen minutes ago. I said, Rowen,
phone Luke. He invited him to come play Worms Armageddon. I want
to talk to him, I call from my room. Then there he is, oh Luke. It's like
stepping suddenly into real love. There's nothing like it. There's no one
like that. It's mutual. He is mutual. Warm mind native to me, more kin than
any kin I have. I tell him about Erin coming to scam me for money and then
weeks later at the door asking whether my offer of a ride to rehab is still
good. "I said, What about right now. - Did you know about him being
addicted to crack?" There is a choking sound and then a silence. Luke
is crying. He lets me hear him crying. I flood full of love that he is feeling
for his friend.
"Ellie's starting to spin," he says to himself. "You spin
too. You're spinning when you get manic." "I get manic to cover
my one deep spin."
I was in the tub talking in the dark, Rowen round the corner reading
Dune in the kitchen. The plumped half moon just right of south. I
said "Can you see it?" He [in San Diego] moved to the foot end
of his bed. Stretched the phone cord. We triangulated. I said "It's
higher in the sky where you are." I liked something I didn't have time
to think through, the moon's reflection on the water moving over my groin.
A triangle with a little bounce on my end.
I had wonderful teaching today, two sessions. I stood and played with
them around the story of the woman with a transporter copy. Boys in the
back row started talking. The quiet Chinese man talked. The girls in the
front row talked. They were starting to see how people were meaning different
things by a term like 'the same.' The less articulate students were talking.
I was keeping it fast and digging always for principle. We laid out the
suggested criteria for identity and saw how they handled my three invented
cases. People stayed overtime. I liked best the opening up of the distrustful
back row: the withheld back row. The science fiction story was a friend
to their loneliness. The front row girls are already supported by my ease
in authority. They step right up. There was that very clear forward girl
in 0.15. In 0.16 it was the hesitant boy who looks like Ken Olin. Action,
what I've been starved for.
Teaching, I've felt compact and forceful sometimes. Speaking from my
pleasure. Passing on the real news. I tell them to read Neurophilosophy
and I draw the sequence of jumping shrew, macaque, human brain on the board.
Poor Adam Barkman with his tight hollow cheeks, hanging onto CS Lewis, ridiculed
for his faith, as he understands it. Order can't come from chaos,
it has to come from reason, he pleads. Definite punchy Kalyna jumping to
an A this paper. The impertinent girl in 0.10, Helen Frost. Rob Boss sneering
and twitching, all confused about whether he's smart or dumb, so sweetly
hapless in his skinless contempt. I won't say what he said to me. I got
even, then forgave him, then made him my pet in the next tutorial. I love
power. I love it because it gives me action. I got Rob Boss to really smile
and show his drawing of a tesseract. I mean he was less isolated, and I,
and he, did it. I was less isolated because I could talk more interestingly
to his realness. He didn't have a pen for the science paragraph. I lent
him mine, "Here's a man who isn't well prepared." You don't know
the half of it, he muttered. "You don't tell that to your teachers,"
said Christina Fullerton from the row in front of him, not turning to say
I left the gallery and went to the garden, picked apples off the ground
in pleasure of color everywhere, sky, earth, fancy forms of leaf and blade
wrinkling and rumpling on all sides. Breath paintings overhead, I mean breath
as emanation on the spot, painting as pulls and pushes using that finely
breathed-out material. Clouds in the west were going a pink internally related
to the sky's acidic greeny blue. I was looking around at the bare crab apple,
the wild apple behind it hung with red things the starlings attack, the
quince distinguishing itself yonder as a green canopy hung with yellow balls
like a drawing of a fruit tree. Crows passing one by one, notches in their
wings where they have lost feathers. I was looking at it all thinking my
body works with this garden to make beauty the making of always more
The way the skill of that carving sends me into the street seeing the
The upper pane in the hall window is war glass, or maybe older, and throwing
onto the far wall of my room it is sunset, almost 6 - a woolly panel
of light fading very quickly, curly and clumpy with a depth like sheepskin.
Mysterious that a transparent sheet can show itself to have so much effective
invisible structure. It is fading from bottom to top as the sun sinks below
a roofline. The fading bottom edge isn't sharp because structure in the
section of the pane that's still lit is throwing light fur fuzz into the
Now there's just a corner very concentrated and bright. Below is a pane
of glow laid onto the blue wall. - Ah, the corner slipped away. The subtlety
of the blue in the room anytime. (This room is exquisite, said Luke last
night.) It's a blue with air in it. Why's that - maybe the white behind
it floats in front of it? Something like that.
What is that floating in qualities of times - falling asleep reading
an academic paper this afternoon, I was slipping into an air so fresh, young
and particular it was as if a memory registered in a sense modality I never
notice as such. As if that's what's meant by 'spirit,' because it's always
qualities of air that is more than air, something that pervades a perceiving
person as their inner atmosphere. The quality of consciousness as if it
were a fluid. If I could feel another person would it be like that? Is it
the first motion of dreaming, that sets a dream going by making a being
for it? Is it a kind of trawling that intercepts other people? Is there
a part of the brain doing it? (No.) Is it the state of health of the whole
brain? (Yes.) A dynamic state? (Yes.) A condition of sensing not a kind
of sensing. But I can compare I say, this is how I was at another
time. No, I can't compare - but I can recognize. I can't remember it later,
but I can remember recognizing it.
This teaching week over. My crisis with Adam Barkman passed. He didn't
arrive to talk to Martin. Instead I found his rewrite on the table when
I arrived. I have been liking to look at him, I should say loving to look
at him. He seems to have a white light around his head. I see him on the
far side of the lecture hall wearing his glasses, writing notes, loving
philosophy, looking serious the way no one else does. When I make a point
he's there grasping it, visibly catching it with his face, nodding
it in with his wide pale forehead. He's twenty years old, small and young,
so finished a man, but a man of another century, white stockings, buckled
shoes, the light of reason, an eagerness, I mean a love. I was listening
to Mozart reading his clearer rewrite, suddenly feeling what it is like
to be a human being who believes he will live after he dies believes
it so he has a light around his head.
It isn't true that Adam is hanging by his fingernails. He made me consider
him. We were walking toward the steps down to the buses, and he said, You
used to believe didn't you. He stated it. I wanted to reward his directness.
I said, You mean because people who used to believe fight more (something
not exactly that). He said, Yes, people who have lost their faith. I stopped
in my tracks, so he had to stop too. This is important: I didn't lose my
faith, I found it. He had his dad waiting in the car and did not just then
want to know what faith I had found. I heard myself saying that I do believe
in something but it is nothing to do with arguments. It hates arguments.
I talk to it, it tells me what to do, how to think.
The way I'm Adam. The papers I wrote for Tietz on Kant. I couldn't do
it his way. I did it mine. It is still happening with Phil. I'm not working
on his topic this time. He isn't going to back me. It means I won't get
an academic job. He has no clue what I'm good for. In his opinion I don't
make it into the boat. He has no interest in helping me publish or anything
else. He thinks he should be getting drafts he could give me 'input' on.
He frowns and looks stern.
And oh what am I good for - am I good teacher? My students get
into me. The Chinese girls so delicately conscious they speak in sentences
full of hesitation. Alice Fong working two jobs because there are four girls
in her family says her grades aren't good this term. She's the far side
of girl, very slight, fair-faced, a small pointed oval very symmetrical,
none of her motions reaching out of the envelope of her quiet and lovely
Took the 20 Victoria to Commercial. On the bus was a young man with coarse
thick hair, curly and uncombed, in a ponytail held by an elastic. I was
considering him, thinking He's French-Canadian, yes, when he reached
his hand to the back of his head and took down a mouse. It crouched on his
lap while he stripped off his elastic, bunched up his hair, re-elasticked
it, and set the mouse on the back of his neck. It climbed into the nest
of hair above his elastic. An old Chinese pair were gawking in the seat
across from him. I said he was like a magician producing a mouse from his
hair. He said he found it yesterday on the steps of the First United Church.
I've written a beautiful Dear John letter.
My meeting yesterday with the graduate associate dean or whatever he
is, a young man with wide blue eyes who, when the meeting was over, pressed
my hand between both of his, a practice I suspect has been instrumental
in getting him where he is. I came in and sat on my chair with a feeling
of being planted with a column straight down my spine. Backbone. I was doing
the right thing and knew how to do it. I knew how to pitch it. He knew what
he was doing too. It was a meeting alive with subtext, very competent.
There was a moment yesterday when I stepped out of an elevator and ran
into Phil just rushing to the stairs. We had a split second looking at each
other. He'd been alone in some worry and I saw his real anguish before I
smiled automatically and the lines of his mouth jerked up. I carried away
that look and its jerk into hiding, feeling, I know this man, I have a connection
with this man, how can I dump him.
It's a little after seven, very quiet. The sky is a felted wad of fibrous
water, blue-ish grey. I can hear gulls and crows. This room is the only
lit room in the neighbourhood. The heater fan starts and stops. I'm hesitating
before I jump, but I know I'm going to. Now I'm not afraid, just stalling.
I want to stay myself a little longer. As if. I have six months ahead, that
are going to change my life. When I come out of them at the end of May I'll
have a book.
Okay, take a breath.
Perceiving, imagining, representing: space and the brain.
It's not a theory, it's not a framework, it's a way of imagining theoretically.
There are two wings in it, one of them asks what we now know about how
we by means of the body/brain live space. The other applies that knowledge
to how we think spatially about mind.
Spinoza said mind and extended substance are the same things under different
descriptions and was banished to the margins of a tradition that has described
mind as unextended, a description always structured by spatial metaphor.
I want to ask how brain thinks space and use what I find to ask how brain
I want to clean up an area of thought.
What kind of book do I want to write. A meditation on first philosophy.
I want to say: these are some of the difficulties we've had when we think
about mind. Here is how we can work around them. This is a demonstration
at the same time as it is an explanation. A beautiful transition is being
made, but it is being made by a series of overlapping shifts. It is a transition
in a manner of speaking. An old metaphor is being used to try to think in
the new way, and it is holding us up, but if we try to speak without it
we are misunderstood, and indeed we misunderstand ourselves too, the way
Dennett misunderstands himself when he says (various things).
A critical interest in perception and our way of thinking it. First philosophy
has to be philosophy of perception. Science was founded on a willingness
to leave the evidence of the senses. There was a misunderstanding of implications.
Descartes was wanting to keep something for childish trust. It is as if
he pulled the world of childish trust back into the womb with him, an inside.
I should talk about how marked that philosophy is by the prenatal. An inside
from which they can't know the outside. It's the structure by means of which
we think. For them, mind is unextended. First philosophy is philosophy of
We can talk about subjectivity without talking about it in terms of interiority.
We can be thoroughly born. We can learn how to say that when we dream perceive
or think, the structures by which we do so are inside our bodies, but what
it's like to do so isn't properly spoken of as either inside or outside
us. It requires a different vocabulary, but that doesn't mean it is unextended,