Senses and Nerve-endings

Victor Oliva, The Absinthe Drinker, 1890, Cafe' Slavia in Prague

Nothing to say, or avoiding inaccuracy? —Brancusi: “I am far from myself, I am no longer a part of my own person. I am within the essence of things themselves” —is what I think that some people think that I am thinking when Silence beats to its own drum, rather than beating around the bush, as if Silence took its little coins and left. Loyalty. My friend, L.M., says that I am quite the Loyalist, perhaps one of the most loyal persons he has ever known, and for this I am very thankful. Some subjects are too rosy to overlook, words just slipping out, but often times as deceiving as Appearance. Silence: an apple-core for your thoughts? And...?

Gass: “‘And’ is produced initially with an open mouth, the breath flowing out, but then that breath is driven up against the roof, toward the nose, even invading it before the sound is stoppered by the tongue against the teeth.” 

Pondering the Whiteness of a Wall, I think then of someone coming along and painting the wall, and then that bright white wall feels disguised; now, a mask of color, a masquerade of emptiness inside the mask with air-holes to breathe through, save for those that have been termite-inated, all within the inner ear of the wall. And the heartbeat of a home? Those that reside within the walls or the walls themselves? Technically speaking, the walls. Sentimentally, or perhaps living within walls of a home and keeping it alive takes at least one human being? An apartment has many hearts; the connection is like that of a gathering of nerves, a consistent beating (a lack of privacy?).  The Old goes on, without invention, indeed, the same heartbeat being carved by naturesque enveloping or the whiteness of walls. The whiteness of walls not strong enough to hold color? yet strong enough to weaken families?

Philip Whalen:  “A poem is a picture or graph of the mind moving” or: “A continuous fabric (nerve movie?) exactly as wide as these lines”

I often feel shrouded in a mutilated layer of shadows, like undiscovered speech traveling through a drain-pipe. It sounds brutal, but the so-called “best parts” are hardly considered. WINTER, why are you not sporting what you regularly attract? Unseasonably mild winter, as if saying, “So long,” but it's all in the teaser, in the drain-pipe? (being silent is an active verb), and soon, how I long for a colder-than-normal winter season, where a sky and snow are all aglow in a self-generated winter light like some astral body, immobile in the broad scope of the gaping universe. Swoon of snow appearing like dreams behind the eyelids, maneuvers, sweepers appearing, frozen: inside and out; frosted glass in access parading across the visuals, across the brain, dazzling with its chilled vibrancy.

From THE FIFTH NEED OF A MAN, writes J.R. Platt (written in 1960):

The needs of man, if life is to survive, are usually said to be four: air, water, food, and, in the severe climates, protection. But it is becoming clear today that the human organism has another absolute necessity. It is one that has not been emphasized in the past, for we have not often been entirely deprived of it or compelled to appreciate the subtle and numerous ways in which it contributes to our well-being. This fifth need is the need for noveltythe need, throughout our waking life, for continuous variety in the external stimulation of our eyes, ears, organs, and all our nervous network. 
In a general way it has always been known that men need change. Put a man in a box and he goes crazy. But recent laboratory experiments on sensory deprivation has nevertheless been rather startling in their revelation of just how this happens.
Volunteers with softly bandaged heads and hands were put in isolation rooms or were floated in warm swimming pools were they could touch nothing and could only see dimness and hear only a low hum. It was not a vacation, as some might think! The men used for the experiments found they lost the sense of time, could not remember things or concentrate, had wild hallucinations, and finally, could never add or subtract. These were healthy, normal men, comfortable, and with no alcohol or drugs, yet they saw little yellow demons marching across the desert carrying enormous sacks. If the loudspeaker in the room finally asked a question or made a statement, it was the happiest of sounds. Yes, of course, two and two make seven, if the loudspeaker thought so. There was deeper truth in that, touching all philosophy.
After a few days of this every one of the man came staggering out, having thought about nothing they had planned to think about, unable to answer simple questions, and refusing to go back at any price. Stir crazy. And four hours after the bandages were removed, the walls seemed to weave in and out. Dreams were strange and it was days before perception and problem-solving returned to normal.
These experiments seem to prove, if proof is needed, that our bodies are not made to operate in a vacuum. Our brains organize, and exist in order to organize, a great variety of incoming sensory messages every waking second, and can become not only emotionally upset but seriously deranged if these messages cease or even if they cease to be new. The fifth need of man is the need for what can be called--in a mathematical sense“information,” for a continuous, novel, unpredictable, nonredundant, and surprising flow of stimuli. I do not mean just a series of flickering lights or a madmans chatter. This might be infinitely surprising but it would not interest us for long. Our sense impressions obviously must be organized into meaningful patterns if they are to bring us much information. But the most important pattern of all is the pattern of change.
In many ways the demand for novelty is like the demand for food. There can be a level of starvation and a level of gluttony. At the jail level, men wolf down their bread or soup, but they sometimes sacrifice even a little of that for a glimpse of the sky or a crumb of gossip. At higher and more normal levels of information flow, the need is relaxed and we can afford discrimination and rich creative enjoyment, becoming gourmets of mental fare. It is no accident that we speak of intellectual preferences as “taste.” And, as with food, we may also overload our networks with stimulation until we get mental bellyaches and can absorb no more.
But to call this a need for informationIs this not just dressing up the obvious in fashionable pedantry? Information theory, so-called, has been developed during the past decade from work in the mathematics of communication by Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, and others; and the term has taken on the technical overtones which it does not have in common usage. Yet even in this sense, information as Warren Weaver defines it, is “a measure of one's freedom of choice when one selects a message. . . . Thus greater freedom of choice, greater uncertainty, greater information go hand in hand.” The ideas of novelty and of intelligible information are bound up, and it is surprising what a bright light the motion of our need for them throws into many strange corners of human behavior. It brings out the nature of boredom, and of humor, of gambling and of learning, of our aesthetic judgments and of creative behavior in art and music, and of the driving force behind social revolutions.
Take aesthetic criticism. My colleague Professor Leonard Meyer of the Department of Music at the University of Chicago has recently a book entitled Emotion and Meaning in Music, in which he puts forward the theory that music or any other symbolic art may have two kinds of “meaning” for the hearer or the observer. One is its denotative meaning, where the music refers to some experience outside itself, either by obvious imitation or by accepted convention. The Domestic Symphony amuses us because of its household noises, and minor keys are thought to be poignant in the Western world because we sing sad songs to them. But formal music is dominated by an inherent meaningthat is, by a meaning which is a purely musical one; and this is what his theory is concerned with.
We all know that we can and do enjoy certain sequences of quite abstract sounds, patterns of pulsations of the air that are almost devoid of human content. What makes them enjoyable? Meyer says that when we listen to music “We are, in a sense, constantly expecting. Under certain conditions, we expect change, under others continuity, and under still others repetition; until finally, we expect the conclusion of the piece. Thus in a very general way expectation is always ahead of the music, creating a background of diffuse tension against which particularly delays articulate the affective curve and create meaning. Formal expectation is constantly active on several architectonic levels as a sort of generalized aesthetic tension which is shaped and particularized in the course of listening.”
Meyer suggests that the inherent musical meaning, the emotional as well as the intellectual satisfaction, lies just in this expectation and in the composers manipulation of our tensions, by turns subtly thwarted or subtly satisfied as the music develops.

The sense of freshness, apparently, with old and new objects? (as Coleridge once said).


 by Rogelio Manzo