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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Speed the mind

The word “awakening” may be more than a figure of speech here, for such “trips” have surely to be compared with dreams. I have occasionally, it seems to me, lived a life between my first alarm, at 5 a.m., and my second alarm, five minutes later.Sometimes, as one as falling asleep, there may be a massive, involuntary jerk — a myoclonic jerk — of the body. Though such jerks are generated by primitive parts of the brain stem (they are, so to speak, brain–stem reflexes), and as such are without any intrinsic meaning or motive, they may be given meaning and context, turned into acts, by an instantly improvised dream. Thus the jerk may be associated with the dream of tripping, or stepping over a precipice, lunging forward to catch a ball, and so on. Such dreams may be extremely vivid and have several “scenes.” Subjectively, they appear to start before the jerk, and yet presumably the entire dream mechanism is stimulated by the first, preconscious perception of the jerk. All of this elaborate restructuring of time occurs in a second or less. — Oliver Sacks, from the essay Speed, in Best American Essays, 2005.

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