Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cheap Watches and Fractured Reality

If you have a cheap watch like mine you will see that it gives only an approximation of the time. The hand which tells the seconds does not move at a constant rate but jumps from second to second, resting in between each jump. In fact, it spends more time resting than it does in moving. Therefore when it moves, it is moving at about three or four times the rate that the second hand on an expensive, mechanical watch would move at.

In fact, to come back to my earlier blogs on catastrophism and gradualism, we see that in these two versions of time as told by a cheap and an expensive watch, what can seem very similar from a superficial glance, is in fact very different in detail. The expensive watch personifies the world of gradual change. The cheap watch illustrates a world of stasis, punctuated by sudden 'catch-up' events.

I suspect our perception of the world is a bit like this cheap watch. Consciousness is not a continuous stream of knowing but a series of fractured moments in which our brains constantly readjust to new stimuli. The brain glosses over this fractured nature by handling most of this refocussing unconsciously. However, if we concentrate on this process while walking down the street, for example, we find it is possible to become aware of these constant readjustments, but that this new consciousness of what the brain is doing is extremely debilitating and causes us to become unfocussed on our surroundings. We soon trip up.

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