Archive for January, 2011

(That’s the) Confabulation of my Life

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

People say I have a good memory. Whether or not I do depends on how you define memory. How much is recognition and how much is recall? Are they truly distinct phenomena? I *recall* precious little of my life and often feel as if my memories are akin to reading an account of events, instead if actually having lived them. This is subjective. It is how I feel qualitatively.

I’ve read that many of our memories are hastily thrown together reconstructions of events. Similarly, our professed motives and personality traits are generally confabulations, stories we tell ourselves about why we acted the way we did, when in fact our actions are most often driven by the situation and not by any qualities inherent in ourselves. Questions such as “What kind of person am I, really?” and “What do I believe in?” usually elicit the incorrect response.

I’m not sure what kind of story I could confabulate about my life, which suffers from a distinct lack of plot. Without a throughline, it’s hard to define things like identity and faith. The center does not hold; it turns out to be a handy fiction. But there are those who say that there is truth in fiction, or that fiction is just another type or interpretation of the truth. Stories resonate. Whether or not they are factually correct, they do what they are designed to do: they are an expression of the human experience. They elicit an emotional response. They bolster our sense of who we are and where we are going, no matter if the impression they give is false. Memories, self construction is a universal trait in humans. It seems probable (though not provably so) that the story of self, the Fundamental Attribution Error, serves some sort of evolutionary purpose.

It is human nature to confabulate, to unknowingly believe huge untruths about our own nature and the nature of the universe. And so, even if we are not always being entirely honest, to our own selves, we remain true.

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1-19-11: Monkey Mind Thoughts

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to meditate for years, mainly because happiness researchers have said that meditation practitioners tend to be happier people. What I have succeeded in doing – what I actually have done – is consistently set aside 30 minutes to listen to some binaural beats (who knows if they work, but they make a decent timer), usually during my morning bus ride to work.

Well and good. The thoughts that zoom about my mind tend to fall in 4 categories:

  •  Those about the meditation itself (“How’m I doing?”)
  •  Those about food and/or the best way to lose weight (“I should really buy some Japanese sweet potatoes, but maybe I should eat tubers only after strength training”)
  • Those about exercising and/or optimizing body composition (“Why is that adding just 5 more lbs. to lat pulldown move makes it not just harder, but actually impossible?”)
  • Work (“I should really remember to do that thing.”)

The most distracting are probably the meta-meditation thoughts, in which I concentrate on my breathing and consequently become too self-conscious to keep up any sort of natural rhythm. Or I attempt to repeat a mantra, but am derailed by the “This is the stupidest mantra ever” thought.

It’s tempting to label the phenomenon “Meditation FAIL,” and leave it at that, but I think that assessment wouldn’t be quite correct. If nothing else, these attempts at meditation provide me with a backdrop of negative space for my thoughts, a figure/ground analogy to contemplate. Thoughts stand out, glittering and discrete. Through examining them, I have gained the self-awareness of the types of things I consistently tend to think about. Is this an accurate measure of the kind of person I am? It’s an incomplete snapshot, but a relevent part of the picture nonetheless. Will it prove to be useful information? Only time will tell, but at least I’m setting aside 30 minutes a day to meditate on it.

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