Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yer Lizard Brain

Dave Hickey, interviewed by Sheili Heti for The Believer:
In my experience, you always think you know what you’re doing; you always think you can explain, but you always discover, years later, that you didn’t and you couldn’t. This leads me to suspect that the principal function of human reason is to rationalize what your lizard brain demands of you. That’s my idea. Art and writing come from somewhere down around the lizard brain. It’s a much more peculiar activity than we like to think it is. The problems arise when we try to domesticate the practice, to pretend that it’s a normal human activity and that “everybody’s creative.” They’re not. Honestly, I never sit down to write anything without thinking, This is a weird thing to be doing! Why am I sitting here writing? Why am I looking at the Ellsworth Kelly on my wall? I don’t know. It feels funny to do these things, but it feels funnier not to, so I write and look. My only justification for the lizard brain thing is that, whatever I’m writing about and whatever I’m writing on, it all comes out the same. If I’m writing about furniture, Dick Cheney, Palladio, or surfing—if I’m writing on coke, speed, acid, smack, booze, panic, sorrow, or just cigarettes, it all comes out Dave writing, so, if altering one’s consciousness doesn’t alter the outcome, maybe it’s not about that.


Anonymous said...

I like the lizard analysis.

In graduate school, I always imagined the grad students as little monkeys being beaten on the head until they learned to make the same noises in the same order that the big monkeys did.

Somedays a lizard. Somedays a monkey.

Professor Pea

barba de chiva said...

The monkey figure is nice (and pertains to what Hickey says about the MFA degree in the interview).

But more importantly: why are monkeys so funny?

MT said...

Who says those drugs aren't acting on parts of your "lizard brain"? I bet some do. Also, "consciousness"--as in being awake versus asleep or vegetative, and such aspects of awareness as fear, anger and joy--depend profoundly if not primarily on the "lizard brain" stuff. Our unconscious mental operations aren't confined to evolutionarily ancient brain areas. There's hardly anything we do that we do consciously. At least, not if we do it well. If Tiger Woods makes a hole in one, it's not from having been conscious of where his arms and fingers were and of the tension on their muscles throughout the swing that drove it in. Nevertheless, point taken.