Author of the Month

A Simple Explanation (cont.)
By Mike Knowles

So I tried to change the subject by mentioning some of theories put forward in that excellent book, Supernatural, I'd recently finished reading it and it had struck a chord. Hubert said he found them fascinating. He just wished he could read. Unfortunately, that ability fell within the "idiot" part of his condition. I then told him I'd achieved at least some of the hallucinogenic effects mentioned by Hancock by applying a slight pressure to the eyeballs. I've created some stunning geometric patterns including a very detailed snakeskin. I've also produced some high tech images. In fact some years ago whilst lying on the couch with my eyes closed I observed pages containing highly detailed technical drawings of various bits of machinery, (unfortunately they didn't seem alien and I wasn't able to construct the ray gun I've always been dreaming about. Or the X-Ray Specs that actually work!) Nevertheless, I confessed the experience had alarmed me. Especially since it occurred when I was applying no pressure at all! Whoever and whatever was feeding me this data was wasting their time. Maybe they got their lines crossed and the lottery numbers that should have come to me went instead to some engineer dozing over his blueprints. Hubert asked if I had any other skills in that department. I told him I could produce different colours at will. I even contemplated using these skills to make money. Marvo - the Amazing Inner Illusionist! I'd ask members of the public to pick a colour and then imagine it.

Hubert was puzzled. He felt my act would demand a certain amount of trust on the part of the punters, seeing I'd be the only one who was able to observe these effects. I told Hubert I was sure I'd make a decent living. Given the popularity of TV shows like Big Brother there were plenty of people willing to accept any old rubbish you throw at them. Alas, my stab at satire fell on stony ground. Instead Hubert began to wonder how big those images were. He assumed that they must have had some sort of physical reality in order to be observed. When I told him I'd always though they were non-physical, Hubert shook his head. "If a thing has no physical properties whatsoever, what is there to see? A non-physical object has no size, no mass, no weight, no temperature, no shape, no how can it be observed? So Hubert reckoned it was only reasonable to wonder about the size of these images. He started by contemplating the images we see whilst we're awake. "In that state," Hubert said, "we describe as reality. Which doesn't really help us very much because reality, like time, is relative."

"In what way?" I asked.

"One man's reality may be another man's illusion," Hubert replied. " A blind man's reality would differ from a sighted person. Even variations in eyesight can cause alterations in so-called reality. And then there are the other senses to consider. Not to mentions Mr Hancock's hallucinogenic cocktails." Hubert sensed he was losing me, so he stopped. "I digress," he said. He then asked me to describe what I could see in front of me. We were standing in the park overlooking the bowling green. In the distance some trees and bushes and behind them a line of old Victorian houses. After describing the scene, Hubert told me that I couldn't be seeing the image inside my head because it was just too big. Of course, we're told that the optic nerve turns the images into a series of electrical signals that are carried to the brain. And, in the brain, these signals are then decoded and turned into the image we see. "Surely not a life size image inside the brain," said Hubert. "Otherwise our heads would burst." For a moment I imagined how far evolution would have got if it had chosen that route.

"Then just how," asked Hubert, "does the image we see appear to be outside the brain that is decoding it?" Hubert reckoned that if it was merely an illusion, then it was a very good one. Because the images we see outside our heads are definitely life size. We can prove that by measuring them. According to Hubert, we're forced to concede that these images really do exist outside the head. So when the brain decodes them, what does it do next? Does it project them back out? The point he wanted to make was that dreams are different. To all intents and purposes dreams appear to occur inside our heads - otherwise other people would see them. "And what sort of a world would that be?" he asked.

"A pretty weird one," I said. "I mean. imagine telling someone you dreamed about them and the person saying, 'Yes, I saw it.'"

"Or," said Hubert, "what about that dream when you're standing naked on a crowded street?" We shuddered. "In a world like that," Hubert observed, "sensible people would be reluctant to go to sleep."

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