Ahab’s Arm, and Starting a Dream Journal

Diary 8/17 to 8/19/22: Paladin dream; Mckenna Grace on YouTube; Picard dream; new Dream Journal; who or what lifts Ahab’s arm? An answer.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Ahab lifts his arms, and neglects the apostrophe.
Art by Brendan Lynch.


Yet another Paladin dream.  He rides up into a setting of rocks in desert; the rocks surround an area of sand and there is a handle shaped like a stirrup, a backwards “D”, which might as well have a “Pull me” sign on it.  From this a cable leads into a circle of rocks that look like congealed sand, very like the surrounding rocks, and the setup suggests that pulling the handle will set off some explosive device set in the ground.  The scene dissolves into whiteness.  This is not very interesting as dreams go, but it’s curious that the vision was in color, as Have Gun, Will Travel was done in black-and-white (at least, all the episodes I’ve seen so far).

“Pull Me” Photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels.com

Bought about $50 worth of books (and one DVD package) from Hamilton Booksellers, including the new Private Diaries of Wittgenstein.  However, I’m still on track to save $200 this month.

My DirecTV is on the blink and has been since yesterday afternoon.  I guess I’ve finally found a way to stop watching Family Guy.

Watched a new video on YouTube from Mckenna Grace, “Post Party Trauma.”  Available at her website.  Only animations instead of pictures of her singing, so it’s visually not much, but I like the song—sad and sentimental.

“Post Party Trauma” by Mckenna Grace

Massive food and beverage recall (link).  Lots of organic products.


Two dreams.  In the first, Captain Picard is explaining to someone how the Enterprise could take a detour to a starbase and arrive at their destination, while something (another ship? a transmission?) taking the direct route would arrive after the Enterprise.  This got muddled up with how the ship might return to its point of origin before it had left.

In the second, I was helping work on a radio show or something like it; there was some difficulty which was overcome.  I can’t remember anything else, except that it seemed like a religious program of some kind.

Tried four different DVD movies last night, trying to find one to entertain me until bedtime.  None of them held my interest for more than twenty minutes.


I had so much dream material to record this morning that I decided to start a Dream Journal, which I will post to the blog.  (Already have, here.)  This will reduce some of the clutter in the diary.

I made a note about “Ahab’s question,” this being the Ahab of Moby-Dick, not the one of the Holy Bobble, that I should give “the scientific answer.”  I’m not going to look up the quote; as I remember it, Ahab says, “Is it God, Ahab, or what, that lifts this arm?”  This is part of, to me, the most fascinating chapter of the novel, “The Symphony.”  It’s the last calm before the storm of the final chase.

To give “the scientific answer” of who or what lifts Ahab’s arm is not easy.  What is perception?  This, to me, is the ultimate question about the mind, because I think if we can answer that, we’ll know just about everything.  As I see it (unintentional pun), vision, for example, connects the cameras of the eyes to the mind—essentially the naïve idea, though I recognize that our eyes are more like “bits of brain” than cameras, while partaking of both.  When we see something like “a red patch,” to use a famous example, whether this means anything to us depends on a kind of resonance between the visual cortex and associational (memory) parts of the brain.  That is, association works like an audio resonance.  If you have a rack full of many tuning forks, each tuned to a different frequency, and you strike a key on a nearby piano, generally one or more of the tuning forks will begin vibrating to one of the frequencies produced by the strings of the piano.  In fact, they’ll all vibrate, but most will vibrate very weakly, and a few will vibrate more strongly.  It’s a sympathetic vibration—the vibrating air causes the fork to vibrate, and a matching of frequencies determines the strength of the result.

I see this as a metaphor for how one area of the brain stimulates another area to activity.  The other area is not exactly passive, and not exactly active—all are active at some minimal level. Each area or circuit is ever-watchful for the kind of activity that will stimulate it to a higher activity within itself.  In fact, these connections (specific stimulus to specific association) are made, literally constructed of growing neurons and parts of neurons, as a result of each body’s experiences.  Why some connections are made and persist and others are not is another difficult question.  Essentially, temporary connections are made constantly in the young brain, and those that lead to further high levels of activation are either reinforced or dampened, depending on other circuits.  This is obscure, but I want to get on to Ahab’s arm, and I am doubtful about trying to clarify it.

Some of the things that get stimulated by the red patch are potential actions, such as constriction of a particular muscle, or a group of actions, such as raising an arm.  The actions that are stimulated sufficiently to win the silent contest among the reacting circuits will in fact be carried out; those that lose will return to their “resting” state.

Why is there differential stimulation by the same input?  This depends on the degree of connection between the particular circuits involved; those that have the most connections to the originating circuit will be stimulated most strongly.  Of course, stimuli are abundant while actions are few.  More often, we’ll contemplate an action but do nothing overt.

I think most stimuli are internal, i.e., have nothing to do with input from the senses.  This is called “default mode processing” in one of the books I’ve read, Lisa Feldman Barrett:  How Emotions are Made.  I consider this one of the half-dozen most important books I’ve read in the last six years.  However, I have not written a real review of it, but some partial, very enthusiastic reviews occur in my diary entries for 10/31, 11/5, and 11/6 of 2018, and 2/19 and 10/26 of 2019.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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