Yesterday, my son was sick *, which meant I had an unexpected day-off with a moping nine year old, and a very lovely, late Summer sun…

It gave me a chance to clean, wash, tidy, shop and do all the boring stuff I had skipped last weekend, because I was too busy doing scrupulously nothing, except enjoy myself with a dear friend who was over from the UK.

It also gave me a chance to watch a seminar about consciousness – which aptly enough totally blew my mind -, by English psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. It addresses such typical coffee machine-topics of conversations as what is consciousness ? How does our brain make sense of sensations ? How did the sense of spirituality, characteristic of the human species come about as an evolutionary advantage ?… And what d’you mean, all you talk about at coffee breaks is the weather ?

Anyway, here’s the seminar, which is a bit long, so get the Häagen Dazs out of the freezer, make yourself comfortable, and you won’t be disappointed

…If you haven’t got a spare hour, here’s an interview, which only take about 20 minutes but probes around the same questions.

One of the ideas that struck me was how we humans are set apart from other superior vertebrates by our ability to love life, because we give meaning to sensations … To the softness of morning light filtering through foliage, to the melody we make out in the sound of running water, to the smell of warm bread on my way to work …

So come on, I’m dying to know, what delicious sensations have made your day beautiful today ?

* He is right as rain today, in that amazing way children have of springing from the brink of death to rude health, in less time than it takes to warm up some hot chocolate.


8 thoughts on “Day-off

  1. I agree that the recoverability of children never ceases to amaze. And the way our emotions are drawn into them when they are ill. I read a book by a geezer called Richard dawkins on “The Magic of Reality”. To be honest the science is pretty high end, so even I knew a lot of it although the evolution bit was interesting. What struck was the virilence with which he attacked “myths”. He is an agressive athiest. I am not big on religion myself but I am tolerant of people who are and I think many of these belief systems have a metaphorical truth even if not a literal one. How all civilizations produced a system of beliefs to codify their moral outlook. God knows. Why I started on this is another mystery but I think it was your comment about giving “meaning to sensations”. Sorry to go on. oops oops oops

    • God knows, that’s excellent 😉 !
      Actually you’re completely along the same tracks… For Humphrey, spirituality is kind of the hallmark of humanity, because the thought that there is nothing after death, and that what we see as our soul dies with our body is just too scary. For him, religion is kind of a viral contamination of this spirituality. I, like you, feel quite tolerant towards religious people though (well, as long as they are tolerant towards me). My take on it is that if it helps them in any way, then why not. I don’t pretend my truth is better than theirs.

  2. Not so much a sensation of something in nature, but a smile today. I smiled at someone who looked like she needed it and I got a lovely acknowledging smile back. Sometimes it’s just the simplest gestures…

  3. Lady E,
    you. are. NEVER. boring or irrelevant. I’ll watch the seminar later.

    —Somebody walked up to me today at work and said “I just Loooove you.”

    this gave me the sensation of one hundred HUGsssss inside my body.

    Xxx Love.

  4. One of the great things about living near Washington DC is access to this kind of education and discussion. The Smithsonian Institute and National Academy of Sciences host lectures on all kinds of science-related and historical and human interest topics. They include speakers from Steven Pinker to Michael Chrichton (who is very tall and, alas, now very dead) to John Travolta (no John wasn’t presenting a science lecture, and his wife is very nice by the way).

    Then there’s the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, which typically performs as a quartet using original instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries, like the Servais — a Stradivarius cello of 1701. The rich sounds are wonderful!

    So I’ve drifted from your topic. But only because your YouTube reminded me of reading Steven Pinker then meeting him here. He has written some fabulous stuff on the way the mind works.


    Great sensations today range from the oddly ‘fresh’ flavor of coffee (personally roasted by Lisette’s friend in Seattle) after being put through what we call a French press (do you call it a “press”?); the slightly moist feel to the cool Fall air this morning after the big rainstorm last night; and the warm squishy feeling we all get after reading a Lady E blog post. 🙂

    • SD, it’s been a long time, which I take as a good sign, of no more domestic crisis requiring cross-Atlantic plotting ! 🙂
      And I know what you mean, I cannot get enough of the science and society seminars we get at work, they are just so incredibly fascinating…
      Bises to Lisette, the girls and you
      PS. A French press is called une cafetière à piston. There, you learnt something today.

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