July 2017

PIZZA & BEER... then maybe a movie  

Give YOUR EYEBALLS a break from trying to peer into the substrate of reality for emerging illusions of self and, instead, having a relaxing a look at the post-strate of perception. This imaginary scenario involves pizza and beer for you and a pal in your choice of … sorry, your predetermined predilection of a festive establishment. It's a chance to notice what stands between you (whatever that is) and the outside world. 

The ambiance of the selected joint is high-volume with a thumpy sound system and lots of conversations. Conversation at your booth is just possible without fully shouting.

The first thing we can observe is that our perception can take in a vast cacophony of external stimuli all at the same time and deliver a seemingly unified experience. The smell of food, the taste of the beer, the draft when the door opens combine with the sight and sound into a single sense of place. These perceptions are unstoppable and can be oppressive. If the sound is shrieking, the lights are glaring, the food stinks and the beer is rank, there is no handy off switch. Only ear plugs, dark glasses, a gas mask or leaving can protect us from our perceptions of an unpleasant scene. In this imaginary scenario, everything is first rate.

That single sense of place describes the entire perceptual show of the five senses with nothing left out. Subdividing these senses into separate experiences like taste and smell makes sense but they can be interactive. They are a concert of stimulation. At no point during this concert will any direct stimulus take more than a handful of milliseconds to transmute and experience from the instant of its arrival, detection or impact.

The taste of beer arrives right away. The smell of the nachos is captured instantly. Sonic tones are musical notes upon arrival to our awareness. If the lights went out and then came back on, how long would it take to see the room again? We can just say really, really fast. The rules of signal transmission rule out saying instantly. The inherent latentcies are tiny. Our point of reference for time is our experience which places all external stimuli a little bit earlier on our timeline. That puts any personal experience we can muster a little bit later on the real world's timeline.

In a few minutes time of sitting comfy in the booth, all these direct perceptions will experience the same effect. They will become bored. Unless there is some reason to be on edge or on guard, their intensity will relax. The surroundings are now repetitious. The overall ambient stimuli is familiar enough and consistent enough from moment to moment to feel less guarded. This should make focusing on your companion's voice and following a conversation easier.

Once peaceful, deliberate focusing will provide the best possible sound-to-word transmutation as your companion speaks. Some extra work will be done to pick it out of the din. Whether anything happens after that is a matter of choice and or courtesy. There is a further option of paying attention. Take note of what stimuli is offered to your senses that your attention can choose between. Right now, there are three clear options: a sporting event on a large screen behind your booth partner, an interesting song at room-filling volume or your partner's conversation. One of these can be what happens next. One of them can be followed. By what?

All the senses are still busy with the overall concert coming from the overall surroundings, while we're going to follow some part of it with our attention. Consider it a bonus internal facility. You could follow the events of the game on the screen and still hear the music and your partner's voice or, follow the conversation and still see the screen and hear the music.

If the latter is thoughtfully chosen, take note of what is followed. This time, words are followed and allowed to form sequences that build complex expressions someone wants you to comprehend. Note that you don't have to follow the sound of their voice because you've already done that when you focused on their voice out the din. In focusing, the vocal sound became words with meaning and associations attached. All you have to do next, is follow them with your attention.

If the music is chosen, then following it with your attention also involves having already focused on the sound from the speakers which has already become musical notes and an appealingly even pulse. Applying attention adds a perception of rhythm and musical structure to the sound. Phrases lead to tonal resolves and rhythms resolve to beat one if you follow them with your attention. Consider it a secondary perception that keeps on doing things with primary perceptions after we are done with perceiving them with our primary system.

Notice that the choices available to our attention are limited to sound and vision. When the pizza arrives, its aroma or taste can be focused on but not followed. When the hot pizza sauce seeps out onto your lap, that will be focused on but not followed. If it is hot enough, your brain will not bother with any secondary business at all. Attention that can follow disappears with a piece of you along with it as your brain closes a perceptual operation and loses its functionality. Once the pain subsides and the concert settles into repetition once more, attention or, secondary follow-ability can be started up again.

If you've ever looked at something, you know that we can look at something that is moving and follow it by steering OUR EYEBALLS. Something similar is happening with the conversation and or music. Both are proceeding and one has to follow them to keep up. Stop following and either carries on forward as its component's are still perceived at the same volume and tonality as before. We call it not being tuned in or being tuned out or not paying attention. Resuming attention requires catching up with what was missed by repeating the tuned out bit. The taste of the pizza and beer can be ignored for several minutes. Upon resumption, one finds that they did not miss anything whilst ignoring.

Our following-attention plainly has nothing to do with our primary perceptions other than proceeding from them. It seems reasonable to call it a second or secondary perception. Taste, smell and touch do not provide any secondary perceptions for us except some visual and aural associations. Our secondary perception is all about following sights and sounds after our primary perception has seen and heard them. 

The Big Game is silently on the big screen and it can be followed visually instead of the audible music or conversation. The operation is the same. Selected visual components can be followed sequentially. Like sentences, sequence is perceived as content. With speech, we do not follow the pressure waves arriving at OUR EARDRUMS. We follow the words and their learned meanings. Likewise, we are not following the light arriving at OUR EYEBALLS, we are following the visual results of our primary perception.

Following attention-getting details means excluding other details. Excluded visual details do not go dark or blank. They are still seen by our primary perception. They are unseen by our secondary perception. Their content will not be followed and will be unknown, even while observed. Right along with what song is playing now and the last thing your companion said.

The pizza and beer scenario does not include the full extent of secondary perceptual experience. That can revealed by minimizing or eliminating as much of our primary perception as possible. Hopefully, the pizza and beer have eliminated thirst and tummy grumbles and prompted a desire to relax. Now we need an environment that will quickly bore our primary perception into near inaction. After some business in the loo, we need to find someplace that is not too hot, not too cold, has no terrible odors, is safe from predators and has a comfy chair.

We want our bodies to hold our head upright and reasonably still for a couple of hours and otherwise go away. That is, as a source of anything that vies for our attention, like the aftertaste of pizza and beer. There is still time to brush your teeth. All we want to notice now is the sound around us and the flat and level screen placed where our comfy chair is pointing us.

Now we are ready to combine what we hear and see into a single cinematic experience. Everything has been done to cater to our secondary perception while boring our primary perception. The screen and the speakers will only have to deliver stimuli that our secondary perception can follow and not bother with extra details that serve the now muted needs of our primary perception. Details like color, depth and a consistent sense of location and proportion can be left out without compromising the cinematic experience and can even enhance it. We don't want our bodies to see what we're looking at but just be the machine that delivers the necessary processed sight and sound to where our secondary perception can see, hear and follow it.

The screen will show us images that we don't want to react to as actual physical experience. With some acclimation time, the transition comes easily. We can now assume perspectives that fall, fly and hop instantly from spot to spot. It's all about following what's on the screen. Sounds have always been cues to vision as in where to look. When following the screen visually, other untraditional cues like music and phantom voice-overs can be part of the cinematic experience.

Like the conversation, the cinematic experience can be tuned into or out of. Distractions can reduce the presentation to just light shining on a flat surface and sounds from speakers. When tuned in, it makes full use of our following-attention by presenting stimuli that we can follow and muting the stimuli that we cannot follow. Foolish gimmicks like scents and 3D cue our primary perception from its comfy stupor and make the illusion hard to follow even if more realistic. Following a scene with a fire in it should evoke memories of the smell of smoke and not a cue that the cinema is on fire.

Secondary sight and hearing is a running perception. It follows things that are running by running along side them and keeping pace. It cannot stop as in sit still without switching off and nothing looks or sounds any different when it does. It has a narrow range of running speeds. That's why if one talks too fast or too slow the content will not be followed because the pace is outside of follow-ability.

At this point, the following ability is probably getting fatigued. Primary perception has had a workout, too. Following outside stimuli is no longer desired. OUR EYELIDS are slowly filling with lead shot. Assuming a horizontal posture in quiet darkness is desired. Primary perception will be starved of stimulation. This allows follow-ability to become lead-ability. Freed of actual perceptions to follow, the cinematic experience continues to run.

All by itself, our secondary perception is an un-place-able sensation of moving and unfolding visuals and sounds. It is a following of recalled memories and an inner improvisation. There is still talking going on, because you're still following speech. Thinking in words or recalling the evening's conversation is all talking to yourself. Eventually, our attention will shift from following words to following visualizations. Those and things that are added up or connected or worked out in another un-place-able place within becomes the stuff that dreams are made of. 

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