This weekend, like last, I really thrived.
The session was delivered partly by a weak chinned “on the one hand and on the other” oxford lecturer and a visiting, very dry, minor celebrity philosopher who had a very clear point of view.
I was mostly at sea – deliberately scribbling the few ideas which made sense to me and struck very much by the 82 year old visiting professors precise use of language, wherein each idea built on the last, an idea he wanted to emphasise repeated in the same words – which was an interesting device.
I had had no idea what to expect but I suppose diving into the knottiest question of all – what makes us conscious – without any of the shared vocabulary or distinctions understood by philosophers, without an idea of the thoughts propounded by Descartes and Locke and Hobbs was a tad ambitious.
The ideas which most appealed to me as ripe for further investigation are related but separate fields of study . Determinism – which as an aside the professor said he believed in – says that our behaviour is instinctive and that any belief in true free will is just about making human beings feel superior to the animal kingdom. The second subject is one referred to in this blog – that our subconscious mind drives the majority of our behaviour. There is only a small unveiled part of our brain which we are aware of as making decisions.
So there were 89 eager beavers on this course. 50% were retired people and the remainder divided into doctors and professors from other parts of the country and a few curious like me.
I was inspired by Barbara. 80 years old, she’s lived all over the world , latterly in Tanzania and Hong Kong, studied psychology, been a probation officer in a high security prison… When we were discussing why we were here I mentioned that a recent love affair had driven me half mad and switched off much of my brain she immediately recommended me a paper she’d recently read on the subject which demonstrated exactly which parts of the brain are switched off completely whilst in love – including the parts dealing with judgement! She then mentioned that she also wa coming out of the grips of an obsession so the capacity doesn’t go away. The object of her affection is 45 years old…. At one point during dinner when I was explaining my job and my relationship with my ex husband she burst out “people like you and I thrive my dear!”
I stayed in the calm of St Stephens College. It felt very good to be there.
It was flattering that Harold a 50 year old GP was waiting for me to go to lunch, as was John a nice looking 41 year old 6th form teacher. After a few minutes chewing he said ” so you have a daughter and you’re divorced, you’re a very attractive person and I was wondering if you were looking for a relationship?” I fairly blushed.
On returning home I got a call from an old Dutch friend who I lived with in my twenties in Amsterdam. We had a glorious evening chewing the fat and she wanted to see a picture of “him”. I looked on twitter and there he was with his football team from a match the previous day. It gave me a terrible jolt.
The other piece of not so good news is that every night I am having nightmares. They don’t often feature “him” and they aren’t terrible but nightmares nonetheless. When I thought of how it will be to see him this morning my eyes filled with tears. That is a meeting to be “survived”.
I’ve a nasty feeling my subconscious may still have things to process on his account after all.