Sunday, June 18, 2006


A Google Alert on 'Moleskine Modality' produces such inexplicable but interesting finds as a search on 'Modality' which presumably was someone else not me! If Google has turned up something I searched for many months ago, all to the good, it is a reminder. I can't remember all these links, though the Medieval Theories of Modality entry in Stanford Encycopedia of Philosophy and Semiotics for Beginners: Modality and Representation look familiar.

I am writing this so self-referentially for a specific reason: arriving at a destination before even being fully aware of where it is. Moleskine Modality has turned out to be the perfect portmanteau. It also seems - though such thoughts can often be delusions - by its very definition to force me to keep to certain topics. The truth is I did not clearly understand what modality meant in the beginning. I knew of it in its scientific connotation. This link shows succintly the range of its meaning - in a true hypertext interpretative, incidentally, which presents the basics which can be taken in at a glance while leaving you to decide which to delve more into.

Imagine setting out to write a book without being clear of its title: a novel or a scientific treatise, perhaps. There would be a list of possibles, or a working towards a definitive title from within a fundamental framework which was designed to limited the text (how often a writer strays from the title he has imposed on himself, like iron filings on a clean white sheet of paper being draw to other magnets introduced to the pattern created by a bar magent underneath).

On the other hand imagine ( I find myself working to this restriction) finding a title and refusing to change it. And yet, and yet, it does not hold me back as much as I thought. It was meant to refer directly to the main character. But part of the fun of writing has become the dreams of games to be played with the reader. The title had, I thought, been there to focus my writing on one man: now there are three possibles. Trying to decide who the title refers to is helping me to strengthen and deepen the writing in a way another more catchy more general one might not have done.

Setting off on journeys without being clear on final destinations. A few guide books and histories may have been absorbed, a map or two examined, a tentative decision about where to end up may have been made, probably for practical purposes. The journey itself will often, usually, end up the stronger determinate of the end. Few exploring travellers would be happy with the notion of everything they did or saw being pre-ordained.

Axioms of Fiction. Telling a story gives a sense of power that life can't. In life there are too many imponderables - too many variables to control; in fiction you can control everything. Well, maybe.


CH4, Sunday 18 June 2006: Voices in My Head. An example: learning the Bible by heart and constantly re-reading it, creates a moralo-ethical autonomous mental model. In otherwords: the thoroughgoing internalisation of the complex of history, ideas and ideals means the person so embued tends to live out the precepts and exemplary scenarios in new situations. This is not surprising because there is enough in there. Though how it should be the only book one should internalise when there are so many others is difficult to grasp.

Obviously this is not an everyday feature of the brain, else more believers would be more devout in practice. Only 2-4% have these 'voices' according to the documentary.


This is confusing territory because hearing voices was originally considered normal then became a mental illness and now has become a mental model. Most now probably assume Moses (Mohammed might have been a better example since he produced so much) didn't hear God's voice, but had so worked out the 'story' that it poured out just like a novel can. This doesn't strike me as surprising at all: politicians can spiel for hours without deviating from some clearly untenable position.

Many people are good at telling stories. They can be very convincing and seem to have endless supplies of data to feed them. Techniques are often subtle, e.g. the complex shaggy dog. A friend was talking the other day about the wonders of modern technology and what we could expect in the future(a clever notion about novel ways to receive sound). Without me realising it, he segued into a description of Fantastic Voyage. I listened for quite a long time before realising he was pulling my leg. He had the tone and the voice just right: I couldn't see the join until I got the few keywords which reminded me of the film.

There must be some connection between the oral tradition and the hearing voices. Part of this is the willngness of the rapt listener to accept the storyteller has been taken over in some way. Anyone claiming to hear a voice in more recent times has mostly become a figure of ridicule: in a more scientific age, a different culture with greater cynicism, we recognise such a claim is difficult to disprove and are therefore resistant to total accetance or suspending disbelief. There are too many explanations out there. To judge if someone is the possessor of some rare ability we rely much on conviction and persistence. The longer the claim is made the greater the risk of our disbelieve being mainatained. With PET or fMRI scans being able show the wrong area of the brain is being used for a real voice, I guess far fewer people will be claiming special talents for their brains.

When you see Hilary Mantel talking about her characters seeming to become autonomous, you take her a bit more seriously. But was she describing an aural phenomenon or the more common feeling of being taken over by one's creation. I didn't hear her say she heard voices.....

The idea of empathy out of control ( if you can be synaeththetic, why not have wonky mirror cell system?) is appealing. Though is the case of the creative process, the empathy/mirroring is based on a mental model rather than a real sensory phenonomenon.


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