"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Thursday, 27 February 2014


I have a cold. I know this because my muscles and my sinuses ache. I'm getting better, the ache is less intense but I continue my regimen of tea and soup to speed my return to health.  I stand in front of the pot of simmering broth watching the peas bob in the bubbles. At least, I think I'm doing this. Maybe. I will explain:

Earlier in the morning, I am mesmerized by the perfection of one particular tulip among the dozen in the vase on the table.  I notice the flower peering at me over the edge of my computer screen directly after I finish reviewing information from the Kepler Mission's recent discovery of 715 

new planets, and details of ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) being built in France.  

Impressive, but it is the simple tulip that sends me over and triggers an almost surreal and profound desire to know.  I am overwhelmed. The feeling becomes more intense after I stumble onto a talk given by Joshua Knobe, associate professor in the Program in Cognitive Psychology and the Department of Philosophy at Yale.  Knobe's talk is about the true self and the question of identity over time.  In it, he discusses the idea that, over time, you will change.  Molecule by molecule, you will become a different person than you are now. And right now, you are a different person than you were in the past.  

Sure. So there's that.

Then Knobe goes on to try to zero-in on what, exactly, the true self is.  Are we our emotions or our beliefs?

You need to watch the talk yourself:


but now, for me, watching this soup is maddening.  The influence from the Kepler Mission and ITER leads me to consider the soup as nothing but varying masses of atoms vibrating at different rates.  The peas were frozen so their levels are different.  And are they really green?   Colour is nothing more than frequency. I know this (whoever I am).  I take two eggs from the fridge and crack them into a bowl.  The eggs now look like two suns ('Feel my pain yet?).  I take a fork , scramble the eggs, and pour them into the hot broth on the stove.  I see them cook and wind around the bubbling peas. I turn the blue gas flame down and stand there. 


"I am."


Do I have an essential self?  A true self? Or am I a simple mass of synapses and neurons sparking and arcing in reaction to stimuli?  But why does some stimuli affect me so differently than others? The tulip responds to sunlight.  The soup responds to heat.  The sound of your voice can make my heart beat out of its chest.


Who am I?

I know the brain can not know itself.  And I know this is really an unanswerable question. I don't trust anyone who claims to know the answer for sure.  That, I think, is the height of arrogance. Accepting that we are a mass of gunk may work for a while, until you suffer.  Until you crave.  Until you have lost.  Until nothing is familiar and you are afraid.  Until you love so deeply.  And, until the big things (715 more worlds) and the small things (the tulip) threaten to blow your mind.

                           I just want to know.

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