Picture, if you will, a case of Mondays

Day 10. 80 pages, 35,520 words. Part One finished.

Ugh, what a day. I really need to stop sleeping altogether, it seems like I have done nothing at all by the time 07:00am rolls around, then nothing gets done between 08:30am and 11:30am, then suddenly it’s 13:20pm and I’m just getting warmed up.

Well, anyway, I guess I have managed to get a few things done today. Including a fun follow-up job-hunting submission to that same place I wrote amusing answers to on their open application page – I’m pretty sure they’ll pass me over in favour of someone else, in which case I will anonymise the submission and post it as a blog entry because I, for one, was quite pleased with it.

Anyway, to the point of today’s blog post.

I’m not sure if this link is going to do much good to non-Facebookers, but this note was pasted around by a few friends lately and I found it very, very interesting. This note here.

To summarise, this guy – aged 30 – just discovered that “mind’s eye” is not just a figure of speech and lots of people – I would even say the staggering, overwhelming majority of people – actually visualise things to one degree or other inside their heads. In other words, I can summon up the mental image of a red triangle[1], or a visual memory of a scene from The Simpsons, or an imaginary stage act where an anthropomorphic camel is punching George Lucas repeatedly in the face to the tune of Yackety Sax. And this guy can’t do that.

[1] Although colours are a bit more abstract, I think, I usually just go with the triangle and agree with myself that it’s red … and that brings a whole new degree of weirdness to this issue – actually describing or establishing in any way how you go about visualising anything.

Now, if you haven’t read the note linked above, I’m afraid the whole thing has a lot more explanation than that and is rather more complicated, but the upshot is that apparently there are people out there who just don’t, can’t, picture things in their heads. This was a completely alien prospect to me so naturally I was dubious about it – how can you live to the age of 30 without realising that people visualise things? Isn’t there whole areas of conversational and other forms of communication that depend on visual cues?

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that no, I guess there sort of isn’t. It’s a huge and founding assumption, yes, but if you start with the assumption that it is just a figure of speech, then sure – there’s not really much to clue you in to the fact that people are drawing images in their minds when they access memories or just think about something in an abstract-association way.

Maybe you can go your entire life thinking it’s totally normal to have nothing with any form or texture happening behind your eyes, just darkness and raw data. Maybe you can live to the age of 30 thinking that those few artists who talk about visualising things are just being artsy-fartsy. I don’t know.

I guess I’m still unable to master my dubiousness. But it was interesting at 05:00am, which was when I actually tried to start to write this thing.

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28 Responses to Picture, if you will, a case of Mondays

  1. aaronthepatriot says:

    I went about 30 years thinking women didn’t fart, is that the sort of thing we’re talking about here? And thanks, honey, by the way. I do hate being ignorant!

  2. aaronthepatriot says:

    And holy shit how long has the makeout cartoon been there? Trollolololol!

  3. apparently there are people out there who just don’t, can’t, picture things in their heads. This was a completely alien prospect to me so naturally I was dubious about it – how can you live to the age of 30 without realising that people visualise things? Isn’t there whole areas of conversational and other forms of communication that depend on visual cues?

    So, I’m assuming that there really is a little voice in people’s heads talking to them every now and then? Your conscience has a voice? What’s it like?

    The world is filled with metaphors that we don’t mean literally.

    • aaronthepatriot says:

      Wait, so you don’t hear a voice in your head, ever? I do…and I know I’m a neophyte at that when we’re discussing Mr. Hatboy, Esq. I think you might be like this mind’s eye blind guy! You’re the mind’s voice deaf gal!

      But don’t worry, that voice can get REALLY annoying. Usually it’s smarting off to me. To hell with that voice.

      • Heh, well, there should be a difference between the internal voice and an actual *voice*. You can’t really confuse the “voice in your head” to something you’re picking up via your auditory system — or if you do confuse those two, we’re talking about a schizophrenic episode. So, then, it’s rather natural in my opinion that a person who has no mental voice (but who has the capacity to conceptualise language perfectly) would assume that you aren’t supposed to actually HEAR voices. We’re not likely to question something so essential to our thinking processes. Same principle with visuals. We’re taught to think that if you see shit that isn’t there, you’re crazy. So I’m not terribly surprised that the guy was able to make it until 30 before they figured out that something was off.

        Veering from the subject, but I have to add that people who conceptualise language in their heads instead of hearing it don’t really get spared from the nagging/unpleasant thoughts, unfortunately. It’d be nice if there was such a mute button in the brain though!

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Well, Cat, I’m not entirely clear the distinctions you are drawing between “voice in my head” and insanity, or visualizing something with your mind’s eye and “seeing things”, and since it comes down to describing what’s in our heads that no one else can experience, I don’t know if clarity can be reached!

      • I don’t know if clarity needs to be reached, really, because I think my point was exactly this: it isn’t clear. 🙂 The distinctions aren’t clear, so how is one to know when people mean it figuratively and when they’re honest-to-deities picturing/hearing something in their heads?

        By and by, both my comments are more directed at / in reference to Mr. Hatboy’s original post rather than your response. I disagree on the idea that it would be impossible that a person might take until he’s 30 before figuring out that his brain works so drastically differently, considering what a complex subject this is, and what with people implying that only insane people see/hear things that aren’t there.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        I suppose. I’m looking at it (pun? intended?) from the perspective of someone who kinda knew that “mind’s eye” really meant I could seem to see something in my head, because I got the impression others were seeing things in their head, too. I’m trying to picture (hur hur) the conversations I’ve had to see how I would view those conversations if I never were able to picture anything inside my head, but it’s really hard. I think, in agreement with Hatboy’s blog here, that I do find it hard to believe he lived 30 years before realizing other people can picture things in their head. I don’t think Hatboy ever said “impossible”…in my experience that’s really not his style. That’s more *my* style LOL.

        Ahh well. And is the voice any less “real” than the picture, assuming insanity is not involved? You seem to be saying it is somehow less “real”, but I might be misunderstanding you. The mental image and the mental voice I both recognize as being internal, not actually in the outside world. But I can still seem to see or hear them, respectively.

        I do want that mute button you mentioned, though. That’s a good idea.

      • It’s very true, he never said it was impossible, I was exaggerating there. In fact, he kind of ended up saying that he supposes that it is possible, though he is dubious about it. And I guess that’s fair. Just as fair as me not really seeing why anybody would be dubious about it.

        …then again, I’ve spent more than eleven years fixated on writing fiction about telepathy, so I’ve had a lot of time to research the many alternative ways in which people can and do conceptualise such “simple” things as memory, imagination, and dreams.

        Oh goodness, the mute button, yes please. Where’s a friendly neighbourhood mind-controller when you need one?

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Well, I can’t really see why you can’t really see why anybody would be dubious about it XD

        Telepathy? Cool! I think about telepathy a lot. If I could convince a wom–you know what? I’m going to just keep my telepathy concepts to myself….

      • Okay, I admit that’s a lie — I *can* see why somebody would be dubious. Saying that I can’t see it feels like saying that I lack imagination and compassion, because I can’t put myself in that position, and of course I can. I guess it’s just that, given how many times I’ve been in a situation where I am trying to explain a minority something-something to a representative of a majority something-something, it never ceases to amaze me how people never really become open to ideas that are beyond their everyday experience. In this day and age, don’t people ever begin to expect the unexpected?

        “If I could convince a wom-”
        I think I have a telepathic character who is just what you need. And he’d do it just for the fun of it, too…

        Getting so very sidetracked now.

      • Also, writing comments when tired and annoyed-with-the-world is usually not a good idea, so in the off-chance that I sounded offensive somehow: sorry, it’s not intentional. I don’t want to imply that anybody in this blog is narrow-minded or not open to new ideas. For example, being dubious is actually essential to opening up, because it’s where questioning your own beliefs begins.

        I should probably get back to editing my short story now.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        LOL I’m starting to see why I enjoy “talking” to you so much on here. We’re very much alike in some of these ways which are coming to light in this comment section.

        Really good point about the unexpected…I do agree that it shouldn’t be completely surprising that someone really doesn’t have a “mind’s eye” and doesn’t realize he is actually missing anything. Although then I could flip that logic around and say should HE really have been so surprised he was missing something…this could regress endlessly! But I heard of a case, for example, where someone suffered an illness (or maybe head trauma), and lost the ability to comprehend music. You know, rhythm, harmonies, etc., when they were previously a musician.

        There are definitely exceptions to nearly everything (see how I give myself an escape there? If I said “to everything” the statement itself would have proven itself wrong!)

        About your character who would use telepathy as I fantasize: “Don’t tempt me, Frodo!”

        I didn’t find you offensive at all. And I completely understand being tired and annoyed with the world, my friend. Need I remind you, I’m in America during *these* presidential elections? Where I honestly can’t decide who is the worst candidate, but the top ones on that list are the ones most likely to succeed? Where the fraud in our system has never been more plain, the lack of power we citizens have never clearer?

        Every day is misery to me right now, and I can’t stop watching. Because I feel this particular election will be pivotal, and I think the direction we will go will be disaster.

        Oh and we’re going to try to sell the house now, see if we can downsize a bit to shake loose some cash. Fun times.

      • This is an awfully short way to acknowledge, but: I agree with everything. 🙂

        And ugh, the elections in America, so frightening. An American friend of mine is convinced that Bernie is the right choice, and that he still has a chance of winning. I don’t know whether either statement is true, but he does sound hell of a lot better than any of the other candidates.

        Politics is terrible here, too, to the point that I spend most days wanting to click my heels three times and wish that I’ll emerge in… I don’t know, Iceland? They seem to have this “taking care of each other as a society” thing down pretty well.

        Maybe if we collaborate on a revolution?

        Best of luck on the house and financial shit! That sounds super stressful.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Well we can’t ALL go to Iceland, damnit! Get in line!

        I could practically be that American friend of yours! LOL

        Bernie’s the right choice of all the choices we have, sure…I would love it if he were 50, or 60…but Clinton and Trump aren’t young either so that’s not a differentiating fact that works against Bernie. From what I hear, he’s basically a standard liberal from Europe, nothing radical or extreme about his views. And look at how he’s treated here!

        As to if he can win, too much to go into here but I think it can’t be done. Mathematically it’s still possible but the forces against him have proven, in Arizona and especially New York, that they will NOT ALLOW it to happen. He’s done amazingly well, better than any other second place performance in a Democratic primary in our history, but I fear this is going to Clinton, barely.

        Let’s get Hatboy and dreameling involved and make our own damn country, “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life on this little planet” and all that.

      • I keep waiting for a ship to pick me up, but I guess they have the wrong coordinates or something. Boy, it’ll be one scalding complaint letter to the away mission deployment office when I’m back on my home planet! 😉

      • aaronthepatriot says:


    • stchucky says:

      The old folk psychology is that the voice you use to scold your children is the voice they hear later in life when their conscience talks to them. This is why I do my best to have a helium balloon ready to hand so I can scold my children in a hilarious squeaky voice. My kids aren’t going to grow up with the disadvantage of a conscience they take seriously.

  4. stchucky says:

    So many great comments and points here, I don’t have anything much to add and will let you rest on your accomplishments.

    I will add that I’ve come to the (provisional) conclusion that a lot of this is simply down to communication.

    Yes, I find it hard to believe that this guy has heard phrases like “my mind’s eye” and “I have a mental image” for thirty years without at any point thinking that maybe this internal visualisation is actually a thing as opposed to the apparent black nothingness and list of factual components he seems to have in his brain. The more I think about it, the more examples in art, movies, books, the Internet, and daily conversation just keep popping up. So yes, I’m dubious that this “revelation” can really be that much of a surprise. When he says that “all this time when my friends and family talked about it, I assumed they were just using figures of speech” … well, it sounds like an M. Night Shyamalan twist. It requires too much convenient misunderstanding and intentional glossing-over of day-to-day reality.

    I also find it hard to believe that the guy never developed his drawing ability beyond the classic four-year-old blob stage. Surely he could reproduce from life, even if his visual memory is nonexistent? Or he could draw from a detailed schematic in his head in the same way he described his car?

    However, I did think about it more, thanks to the comments here and on Facebook and elsewhere. And I do think a lot of it is down to communication. There is a fundamental confusion because we are basically incapable of describing anything without reference to our outwards-facing senses. What we do when we visualise something in our heads may well trigger the parts of the brain related to eyesight (or whatever), but it’s nothing like actually looking and seeing a picture. It’s not literal, and someone who has lived “without” this ability for their entire adult lives could easily be forgiven for assuming it is like a Sherlock-Holmes-esque Mind Cinema that everybody but they can create at will. And consequently freaking out a bit.

    Likewise, when we think words, it’s not really auditory.

    That’s why there’s “mental image” and “hallucination”, and “inner monologue” and “hearing voices”. There’s a difference between mental processes and our senses actually transmitting data to our brains that is not there. Yes, the line is so blurred that there is effectively no line, although obviously at some point we realise a dude is “crazy” when he starts collecting doll parts because Romulus and Remus told him to.

    But then, it’s usually only when this stuff manifests as socially-unacceptable actions that the line is drawn. You can be as bug-fuck insane as you like, as long as you can pass yourself off as a Normal.

    • stchucky says:

      *goes back to passing self off as a Normal*

    • aaronthepatriot says:

      Well said, and clearly I continue to share your…dubious disdain of this guy’s…empathizing skills? You described it better, and fully, the way I’ve been looking at it just there. And in the process, you finally helped me coalesce why I stopped watching Shymalyemalye.

      I do have to stand up for Remus, just a bit, though. Really pleasant fellow, I would have let him name a city. Romulus was a selfish cunt.

  5. thelinza says:

    I have doubts that this guy worked as a product/service designer surrounded by other designers and no one commented on the fact that he draws like a two-year-old / no one noticed that he can’t hold concepts in his head / his mom didn’t notice that the grunt answer he gave to ‘how was your day, sweetie’ wasn’t just a thing that happened during puberty.

    That said, “I think what makes us human is that we know we’re the galactic punchline, but we can still laugh at the setup” is a pretty good line.

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