I attended a lecture last night at UCSC on Brain, Mind, and Consciousnes – part of a fascinating week-long conference. The speakers were Nora Bateson, daughter of Gregory Bateson (An Ecology of Mind) and Dr. David Presti, neuroscientist and UC Berkley professor, who has been teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks in India at the request of the Dali Lama. Their main message was about the complexity, vastness, and interconnectedness of Everything, and the need to love, respect, and pay attention – macro and micro, interior and exterior, known and unknown – to all that is part of this Oneness with which we are in relationship.
Well, mind and consciousness is a pretty interesting subject. Apparently there is growing mainstream interest in brain research. The issue of traumatic brain injury is receiving more attention as it is coming to light that so many of our people serving in the armed forces in the Middle East are coming home with untreated, undiagnosed traumatic brian injury – “the invisible injury”. One thing these injuries can do is blast open the “doors of perception”.
Some of us – including many writers and artists – seem to experience an open door to altered perception even without psychotropic drugs or brain injury. I have recently had a direct experience of “altered reality” – a kind of bleed-through of my novel. One of my fictional characters came through into and interacted with – well, what we refer to as “reality”. There are numerous entertaining stories and films about novelists whose characters “come to life” – the Pygmalion plot line. That’s kind of what recently happened to me.
Here’s my experience:
A theme in my novel, The Death of the Gecko is that family farmers are under enormous pressure to develop and concrete-ize prime farmland, but our farmland and food security must be protected. In the novel, the protagonist, Watsonville teacher Ms. Aurora Bourne, gets involved in the struggle that actually took place in the ’90’s to prevent development of a large and fragile parcel of farmland and wetlands. In my novel, Ms. B attends a meeting where people are discussing the need to protect the land. As I wrote the scene, a character began to speak and I “took dictation”. The fictional character whose voice “came through” was far more articulate and well informed than I am. Later, I checked his facts and was astounded by his information and reasoning, which somehow far surpassed my own. Recently, I learned that the Watsonville City Council is on a mission now, a decade later, to do the same kind of concrete box store “development” of sensitive farmland that was blocked in the 90’s and described in my novel. I was moved to write a letter excerpting the argument of the character from my novel. His argument against developing today, in reality, holds up well enough that the Register-Pajaronian just printed it as an opinion piece on their editorial page. My perception is that the letter was not in “my” words, but the the words of the fictional character that “bled through”. He had something very important to say. I feel honored to have been a channel for his words, and I hope they’ll be effective in helping to protect our farmland.
A friend who recently read my manuscript commented that she thought no one but locals would be interested in the story of the struggle over the Tai Property in Watsonville. I think it is a universal issue – loss of our pricious fertile farmland is a problem all over the planet. Seeing how one community protects their land may inspire others. What do you think?