Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Aural Explorations

So I ruptured my eardrum Saturday night (don't ask, it's too great of a story). Now I'm in this sort of aural isolation because the other ear didn't work so well before. Plus I get to wear these lovely orange foam ear protectors. But it got me thinking about a program coming on the Science Channel soon about isolation experiments and Grant Morrison's current story arc on Batman. Morrison has woven a tale of Batman's early years and his attempts to push his body and mind to their limit through a ten-day isolation experiment along with Bruce Wayne's time spent in the midst of a forty-nine day mediative isolation that supposedly puts you through the whole process of dying and being reborn. That story goes so far as to roll a rock in front of the cave Wayne mediates in.
Isolation is a strange idea. We've all heard how the blind seem to have extraordinary senses as compensation for their lack of sight. Our senses are our windows to the physical world. Without them we would do nothing but bang ourselves into things with no understanding that we've stopped nor where to move next. We would have quickly lost the evolutionary race. Isolation experiments show what happens when you selectively take away a sense and the frustration and madness that follows. We are beings meant to have sensory stimulation. Our brains devote large portions of itself to the receiving and interpreting of sensory data. Take away your senses and your brain will end up using those neurons for something else, or even fake sensation to keep itself occupied.
This is why sensory deprivation experiments are both so fascinating and so dangerous. The mind can only take so much loss of sense before it creates to sense. Stick someone in isolation for ten days or forty-nine days and you might not get the same person back out. That is the crux of Morrison's story in Batman right now. Push the mind to such an extreme and what kind of madness follows? Moreover, for a character like Batman, someone who plans for everything, what does one gain from complete sensory isolation? Morrison suggests that Batman allows himself to create secondary personae, a sort of back-up person to take over if the mind of Bruce Wayne were ever broken.
But for me, I just have a busted ear drum. The ringing in my ear isn't so bad now and I think it's healing nicely, but still I have to remain cautious as to what environments I subject myself to. It's a pain in the ass but what else can I do? Two weeks to two months is the time span I'm looking at. Luckily I already had a doctor's visit scheduled for next week.