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In the wee hours, a mind, like the earth, goes round and round — Beer vs. Bread
Night vision as a superpower?

The Pulsing Wall

by Greg I. Hamilton on July 25, 2014

I lay awake with eyes closed and slowly opened my eyes into the dark. I watched what I knew to be the near wall, only sensing it there in the blackness, but then it became subtly visible. It faded back into dark, but pulsed back into view seconds later. Then it was gone again. In and out, rhythmically, my night vision seemed to be subtly asserting itself as if coming in waves.

I realized it was connected to my breathing. At the apex of every inhale, my night vision returned, only to fade away through the exhale and beginnings of inhale. Wow, how cool, I thought: apparently when my lungs are full, all that extra oxygen fuels a pulse of improved eyesight. If we calm ourselves, tune into our natural cycles like breathing, perhaps we could hone this principle into a sort of superpower, a sixth sense.

My mind drifted to nebulous philosophies that felt important in this oxygen-energized state. I pondered the sometimes cynical concept of history repeating. Do we go round and round, retracing the same steps, like Winnie the Pooh lost in the forest? I didn’t think so. It felt like history accumulates. Some say “it’s all been done,” but every time it’s done again, well, there’s another one for the history books, for our memories, for the lore of all time.

Good and bad accumulates. We hear often of the state we’ve put ourselves in: 350.org* tells us how we’ve left a stink trail of environmental degradation that does not float away— we are mired in the bad choices of the past. The things we presume to be throwing away are actually piling up and causing trouble. We aren’t going round-and-round, many environmentalists say, we are spiraling downward.

I agree that we aren’t going round-and-round, but I question if we’re only heading downward. I believe that good things accumulate too. The little good deeds; the things we fix; the people we help, inspire, or even just lend an ear to. Restoration biologist Christopher Wills, in his excellent new book, wrote:

“We have drawn on our intelligence and our technology to exploit the world, but we have only just begun to explore our potential to heal the world as well.” Green Equilibrium: The Vital Balance of Humans and Nature (2013)

Through these thoughts, my pulsing night vision was a soothing rhythm, as if I could lay my head against my chest and ride out the undulations of my lungs. Just gazing at a murkily lit plain wall was plenty of stimuli for my eyes as my mind followed its track around a bend.

It felt like we are scrabbling up the scree field of history, this towering mound of debris from everything people have done throughout all time. Some of the rocks are loose and treacherous, we avoid them or we accidentally set them free and allow them to tumble down and away. Others are firm hand- and foot-holds and we climb upwards on them. On the shoulders of those who came before.

If you think of the mass of stone and junk that makes up this talus field, it might seem overwhelming and wasteful. All this debris from hundreds, thousands, millions of years of life just jumbled up here and useless. It is in our way.

Or is it piling toward something?

How else would we get this high up without the stuff of the past?

. . .

I heard a noise and sat up, looking toward the other side of the room. It was nothing, or nothing very important here in the wee hours. But as I sat there looking toward my laptop, I realized the source of my pulsing night vision. My computer was in sleep mode: the little white power light pulses on and off, rhythmically, illuminating the wall ever so slightly. Clever Apple, I thought, mimicking the human respiratory cycle with a simple little indicator light. They have made technology human-like: friendly and soothing.

I close my eyes and drift off.


Thanks for reading. Cheers,


*Actually, if you visit the link above, you’ll learn that the good people behind 350.org— while they’re certainly perturbed with the state of things and our alarming trajectory— are actually making positive steps forward and upward.

Photo by a sleepy version of yours truly

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