Books

A Journey To The Center Of The Mind

A world with a single currency, that which is absent of warfare, noxious fumes, greed, dictators, fanatics, terrorists, unemployment, poverty, and ailments would be a John Lenon-esque utopia.

Such a place would be the very picture of perfection, as beautiful as a miniature glass globe, with snow flecks falling in twirls inside it.

To a cosmic tourist, hurtling through our star system, the Earth would appear a smooth, serene, infinitesimal, bluish-white ball, suspended in an infinitely large ink jar.

Clearly, this extraterrestrial backpacker would observe no noteworthy visible manifestation of atmospheric disturbances as she would in the neighborhood of say, Jupiter.

However, little would she be aware of the ceaseless “thought storms”—my coinage—raging inside the minds of some six billion (and counting) human beings, who inhabit this sphere.

If, in theory, it were possible to listen in on every brainwave of every individual and amplify them, then, the volume of their combined decibels could well be audible to alien life forms well beyond our planetary backyard.

My thoughts, at this hour, are veering towards a book.

The End of Mr. Y

The heroine of Scarlett Thomas’s idea-driven novel, “The End of Mr. Y,” finds herself addictively drawn to the mental terrain of the “mindspace”—a collective conscience—after she comes upon the sole-surviving copy of a book, widely believed to be cursed and dangerous.

Describing the various landscapes she encounters emerging out of a tunnel “made of language” (“because that’s what people’s thoughts get stored in”), she writes:

I am in a cluttered town square with gray cobbles, which looks tiny compared with the mansions and castles crowded around it.

There must be hundreds of these buildings, although objectively, I can see that this should be spatially impossible. Nevertheless, they are “there.” There are little cottages arranged in a haphazard way: one on top of the other, some with three-dimensional edges.

I notice smoke coming out of some of the chimneys, but the smoke doesn’t curl upwards, like smoke should do. As well as expanding into three-dimensional space, the smoke also seems to be curling in on itself, out of itself, and moving in some other directions I don’t have names for.

Befuddled, she asks herself, “What the hell is this the equivalent of? All this is a metaphor, right?”

It is.

The structures she sees in the so-called “mindspace” are just the manifestations of peoples’ minds—a thicket of memories, tangled emotions, latent imagination, and random thoughts that spin, revolve, collide, and bounce off each other like molecules inside a helium balloon.

Beams of images, travel at lightning speed, enter one’s consciousness with the ferocity of invisible bullets, penetrate many layers of the being, before some get permanently embedded in its myriad recesses.

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