Saturday, September 08, 2007
Consider the light switch and the locomotive
At night, sounds travel long distances in the desert, last night I could hear a distant locomotive making its way through the dark. And that got me to thinking. About traveling in the dark and traveling in the light. And how our brains work. And the light switch on the wall. A toggle switch. On. Off. No in between. The electrical current in the wires reach the toggle switch and if in the ON position, the current continues, if the switch is in the OFF position, the current comes to a halt. Another switch is that which is used to route trains. A train is barreling down the track in one direction, then ahead a switch in the tracks, an opportunity for the train to go one way or another, determined by which way the track is switched. Unlike the toggle switch, the rail switch doesn't halt the train, it redirects the train. Left or right. In the most basic sense the computer is just oodles and oodles of toggle switches and rail switches. And so too the brain. Every day we make determinations to either flip the toggle switch inside our brain to ON or OFF. If we want to consider something, we flip the switch ON and suddenly the lights come on and we find ourselves as engineers in a locomotive heading down the track. Yes, flipping the switch ON sets everything into motion, for now decisions are to be made, for up ahead are countless switches that can redirect the locomotive this way or that way. Decisions. To decide or not to decide, that is the question. To not make a decision means that the locomotive will continue down the track in the same direction, missing opportunities to switch directions. Of course, depending on your destination, that could be good or bad. So to make decisions means that you are directing the locomotive, you are determining the destinations, and hopefully you are making the right decisions so that you arrive at a desired destination. But let's back up a bit, now what happens when we decide to flip the toggle switch to the OFF position. The electrical current stops. The room goes dark. The locomotive doesn't even enter the picture. Of course one could arise in the morning and then busily go about turning every toggle switch in his or her life to the ON position, but in an instant the circuits would become overloaded and blow a fuse, shutting everything down. The opposite is arising and flipping all the switches to OFF and leaving the room dark. Then what? So for most of us it is arising to a new day of deciding, deciding which of those switches to turn ON and which to leave OFF.