Thursday, October 20, 2011

interesting coincidence

I saw a NYTimes article on free will and experiments today. The experiments seem to indicate the absence of free will, in fact. I was especially interested because my play JULIA & BUDDY discusses this exact thing - experiments that seem to demonstrate what Arthur Schopenhauer was going on about - that the Will is what drives our behavior, not our conscious minds - i.e. "free will."

Our conscious minds only tell themselves they are in control.

I also blogged about it back in July.

But here's the coincidence part - right in the middle of the article there's this:
If I choose to remain indoors because I’m in the grip of a panic attack at the thought of going outside, then my choice isn’t free. Here we might say that I’m not just caused to choose as I do, I’m compelled.
JULIA & BUDDY is also about panic attacks - the philsophy professor Julia is having one when the play opens and this issue is dealt with off and on throughout the play. And in the first half of the play she can't go outside due to panic-attack induced agoraphobia. How strange.

Or maybe not so much - perhaps this example came to mind because the author, Gary Gutting, himself suffers from panic attacks. Certainly that's my motivation for mentioning panic attacks in my play. Although I've never gotten so bad that I couldn't go out of my apartment.

Perhaps philosophy-minded people are more inclined to panic attacks than other people? That's basically what I have Arthur Schopenhauer propose, in my play:

Have you ever experienced a panic attack, Herr Schopenhauer?


No. What is it?


It starts with an awareness of binocular vision. And your life force begins to seep away. And you feel as though you are going to black out.


You are suffering from existential displacement.


Are you sure?


Jah. It happens when you become aware of the two states of existence. The ordinary mass of humanity is only aware of one state of existence, the everyday world. But philosophers see another world - the world that is composed of endless fleeting phenomena in the ever-rushing stream of time. And sometimes the philosopher will see both states of existence at once, and this overwhelms the mind, which may result in disorientation and nausea and fear.


Yes! Sometimes I get this sense of - I feel - eternity rushing through me!


Existential displacement is the price of being a philosopher...

Maybe I was closer to the root cause of panic attacks than I realized... although I always assumed panic attacks were a fight-or-flight adrenaline over-reaction to stress. Hmmm....

I should say that Julia's description of a panic attack is not entirely typical. The "awareness of binocular vision" is my own personal innovation, so to speak, in panic attack symptoms. The first time I noticed binocular vision wasn't during a full-blown panic attack but during a job interview - and I got the job.

So I don't often get that symptom, but I thought it was a good metaphor so I used it. I'm more often afraid I'll black out. That's pretty standard panic attack symptomology. sigh