Hmmm. Not quite a middle way, is it?
Hmmm. Not quite a middle way, is it?
PARABOLA: You’ve mentioned “gift” a lot, this almost organic knowledge of inner intervals and tempos and so forth. It is true that the genius is born with the gift. Goethe says that the gift of attention is the only thing that differentiates the genius from the human being. Is there a way in which I could practice developing the sensibility and the sensitivity to speak with the kind of freshness which now is missing?
WILLIAM SEGAL: It’s as if there is a center that can vivify all parts of the circumference–a center that illuminates. When we speak and listen from this center, a relationship is set up where words have more meaning. A hitherto unused energy is added. Most people speak, as the expression goes, from the top of their heads, so the words issue mechanically–dead words. A stop, a moment of pause, brings unsuspected energies. There is a change, the quality of energy that’s transferred is quite different. But that is not so easy. It’s easier to speak from our knowledge, from accumulated experience, from imitation of others.
P: Is there a courageous stance towards the unknown that is required?
WS: There’s a risk. At the beginning, when one speaks from this center, one feels awkward, as if one has lost the support of the known. To remain related to the unknown, at the same time keeping in touch with the knowledge that one has accumulated through experience and education, is not so easy. Still, if one lived more from one’s center, one would speak with more sincerity, would find unexpected resources within oneself. One might even open in oneself conduits of expression and of material which are pretty well closed in us. One would tap material which is now dormant. Combinations of impressions would come together to produce more original, more effective language.
—from “In Light of Meaning: An Interview with William Segal,” (Parabola, Volume XX, No. 3, Fall 1995). Order this issue here ›
Photo Credit: Roger Sherman
Don’t ever use the word ‘soul,’ if possible. Never quote dialogue you can summarize. Avoid describing crowd scenes but especially party scenes.
If you’re doing your job, the reader feels what you felt. You don’t have to tell the reader how to feel. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel.
You want vivid writing. How do we get vivid writing? Verbs, first. Precise verbs. All of the action on the page, everything that happens, happens in the verbs. The passive voice needs gerunds to make anything happen. But too many gerunds together on the page makes for tinnitus: Running, sitting, speaking, laughing, inginginginging. No. Don’t do it. The verbs tell a reader whether something happened once or continually, what is in motion, what is at rest. Gerunds are lazy, you don’t have to make a decision and soon, everything is happening at the same time, pell-mell, chaos. Don’t do that. Also, bad verb choices mean adverbs. More often than not, you don’t need them. Did he run quickly or did he sprint? Did he walk slowly or did he stroll or saunter?
cuz we don’t know everything. Isn’t this wonderful??
Nearly 10 years ago, Vanderbilt University cognitive neuroscientist Randolph Blake and his postdoc Duje Tadin needed to give their study participants the experience of complete darkness. They were testing their new transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS) and developing protocols for a series of experiments involving the generation of phosphenes—light experienced by subjects when there is none. So the researchers ordered high-end blindfolds, designed to block all light from reaching the eyes.
When the blindfolds arrived, Blake tried one out. “I can’t remember what prompted me to do it, but on a lark, I put them on myself first and waved my hand in front of my eyes,” he recalls, “and had this faint sense that I could see my hand moving.”
Tadin then tried it and had the same experience. The two replicated the mini experiment in the TMS lab, a small, dark room on the sixth floor. And again, both researchers could just barely see their hands through the blindfolds. “You could see this faint shadow, this faint impression of something moving back and forth in rhythm with your motions,” Blake says. But, when Blake waved his hand in front of Tadin’s blindfolded face, Tadin saw nothing. “That got us excited,” Blake says.
The duo traipsed around the building eagerly blindfolding their colleagues and asking them to report what they saw. “About half reported seeing something,” Blake says.
To test what was happening, however, the researchers knew they needed to come up with a better way to characterize what people were actually seeing. “What we discovered was an inherently subjective experience,” says Tadin. “There’s no easy way to ascertain that I’m telling the truth.” Unable to think of a reasonable way to measure the phenomenon, they set the project aside.
A few years later, running his own lab at the University of Rochester, Tadin told the story to graduate student Kevin Dieter, who encouraged Tadin to give the project another shot. They devised a conservative experimental setup in which they attempted to control the subjects’ expectations: they told study participants that one blindfold had little, imperceptible holes that might allow them to see through, while another blindfold would successfully keep out all light. (Both blindfolds were, in fact, totally lightproof.) A subject’s experience with the first blindfold could then guide his expectations for a second trial using the other blindfold. Specifically, if he had seen something with the first blindfold, he would certainly not expect to see anything with the second one. But even under these conditions, nearly 50 percent of subjects reported having at least a “visual sensation of motion” while wearing the second blindfold.
The results hold “implications for how our different sensory systems work together,” Tadin says. Dealing only with subjective reports, however, still made him uneasy. So he turned to an eye-tracking device—used without the blindfolds but in complete darkness—to detect the movement of subjects’ eyes as they viewed the hand they reported seeing. People cannot move their eyes smoothly unless they have a visual target to lock on to, Tadin explains. If they just thought they saw their hand, jerky eye movements should reveal the truth.
To Tadin’s amazement, the eye movements suggested that the visual perception was indeed real: people who reported seeing their hands moving in the dark exhibited eye movements that were twice as smooth as those of subjects who reported seeing nothing (Psychological Science, doi:10.1177/0956797613497968, 2013).
Interestingly, people with synesthesia—who often see letters of the alphabet, numbers, or days of the week in specific colors, or associate particular sounds with visual stimuli—tended to score higher on Tadin’s blindfold experiment in terms of how much they saw. “They were literally off the chart,” he says. One synesthete produced such smooth eye movements that Tadin at first thought the data were erroneous: “Her smooth eye movements were almost perfect.” Research has suggested that synesthetes exhibit higher levels of cross-brain connectivity, which may play a role in the generation of the visual perception as a result of the kinesthetic input.
Regardless of the underlying neural mechanism, Tadin suspects that there are likely other examples of how the senses blend together—in synesthetes and in people with normal sensory experiences. In 2005, for example, when Norimichi Kitagawa at NTT Communication Science Laboratories in Japan and his colleagues recorded the sounds generated inside the ear of a dummy head by brushing the outside of the ear with a paintbrush, then played those sounds to participants who received no ear strokes, many reported feeling a tickling sensation (Japanese Journal of Psychonomic Science, 24:121-22, 2005). “This phenomenon [of ‘seeing’ one’s own movements] may be just the tip of the iceberg,” Tadin says.
I Doubt That - The Media Guide to Skepticism
The common notion about being a “skeptic” is that you hold a generally questioning attitude or have a dubious opinion on a certain topic. At the extreme, terms like “climate skeptic” or “truther” express distrust and denial of scientific conclusions. Scientific skepticism, however, is an approach that emphasizes evaluating claims based on evidence. The process of skepticism is of great value to society to lessen the potential of believing or investing in something that isn’t all it appears to be, which may have social, financial or even tragic consequences.
This presentation will provide a look into organized skepticism — what it is, what it means to be a skeptic, what skepticism isn’t, and why it’s important for everyone to know how to apply it in a world overloaded with questionable information. Come visit with some friendly neighborhood skeptics who can help you sort through the nonsense and critically evaluate some extraordinary claims. Find out the difference between merely saying “I’m skeptical” and REALLY applying skepticism.
This inquiring mind wants to know: has evolution stopped?
In her altogether excellent meditation on Middlemarch, New York magazine’s Kathryn Schulz offers this characteristically brilliant one-liner on why “best” is the worst qualifier of all – a reminder particularly timely in the age of the linkbait listicle that tends to take the form of “The X Best Y.” (via explore-blog)