Wednesday, January 07, 2015

If Only I Were Always This Smart, About Everything

A couple of nights ago, I had an odd and interesting experience: as I was flipping through TV channels, I stopped at a movie - and IMMEDIATELY recognized both the visual style and the style of the accompanying music. When I say immediately, I mean within five seconds. I drew a blank on names for a few moments, so what I said to myself was, "This is by the Edward Scissorhands guy." But it wasn't "Edward Scissorhands." Nor was it "The Nightmare Before Christmas," which the imagery and music also brought to mind.

When Christopher Walken appeared, that didn't help. Then I saw penguins, and it clicked - Batman. More precisely, "Batman Returns." Directed by Tim Burton, music by Danny Elfman.



What made this odd and interesting (to me, at least) is that I had never seen "Batman Returns." In effect, I recognized something I had never seen before.

How? By its strong resemblance to what I had seen.

It got me thinking about the whole business of how shockingly efficient our brains can be sometimes at recognizing patterns, even when we don't know consciously know what those patterns are. Can I tell you precisely what made me recognize Burton's hand in the visuals? Not beyond some generalization about twistily deformed objects. Can I name the elements of Danny Elfman's musical language (which first won my affection in the theme for the campy TV series, "Tales of the Crypt")? Um, quivering quavers and discordant chords? Can't say that I have a lock on it.

But I knew.

And that - the ability to simply know things sometimes, more quickly than I can figure them out - delights me.

But I've said that before - at the same time that I also asked a question that I want to repeat now: "...are there ways to train my brain to make more of those connections?" I'm not sure how useful that ability is; but maybe it would be more so if I cultivated it.

Can it be cultivated? I need to look into that - say, after I get the hang of box breathing and speed reading.

Have you had moments in which your brain worked surprisingly well? Do you wish you could have more? Better yet, have you learned how to have more?  Any reading suggestions?
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