Monthly Archives: December 2009

Voices

A barrier of consciousness wears away as sleep begins to dismantle the mind. Suddenly there are multiple, simultaneous monologs …and occasionally, hovering on the boundary of sleep, bits and pieces of that narrative are rescued and I find myself hearing my dead father’s voice.

If I were superstitious I’d believe in ghosts, but it’s more likely just a model of my father in my head. In the same sense, my wife can walk into a room while I’m reading, say something funny, then predict what I would say in response, to mock me. She knows exactly what words are rising unspoken in the back of my mind and says them before I do.

I imagine there are hundreds of these in constant operation within everyone. These agents would certainly predate the evolution of consciousness. An entity would need to evolve the ability to create such models as a means of efficiently predicting its environment.

Perhaps the brain of early man was an ever larger complex of small-scale agents, which became more complex as simple vocalizations grew into a language. But at some point there had to come a moment at which the model of that entity which was the self became the self that we think of when we say we are self-conscious.

And then the light of that illumination drowned out the other voices, pushing them back behind the wall of sleep, to creep out in dreams, or to filter their cacophony up through the levels of the brain in the form of intuition and prediction, or to reach through to conscious thought in a rare moment, when the self is preparing to rest, and our dead fathers reprimand us for some long forgotten, long forgiven fault.

This is what goes through my head as I lay awake with these splitting headaches. I think I’ve been staring too hard at the computer screen, as my right eye constantly aches. I am writing this from my computer in the living room, unable to sleep but not wanting to wake my wife.

On the brighter side of things, the Austrian doctor called this afternoon. Apparently her project is going well and they’re going to need more work. I must have been groggy because it actually took a while to remember who she was, and the woman has a very distinctive voice.