I’ve a confession to make. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a huge influence on my life. It convinced me as a teenager that life is an adventure and that I should be fearless in my pursuit of um…adventure.
Another action movie that has now inspired new insight for me is the latest Tom Cruise vehicle, The Edge of Tomorrow. It a sci-fi movie that steals the Groundhog Day premise of a character having to live the same day over and over again. Cruise plays a cowardly soldier who is reborn every time he is killed on the battlefield, back to the start of the same day. He becomes an uber-soldier able to predict everything that is going to happen.
Waking up this morning it dawned on me that the emphasis in the mindfulness courses I teach about each moment being unique is not entirely true. It became clear to me that I was going to live pretty much the same day that I had yesterday. The same dramas, the same anxieties, the same relationships. And with the film fresh in my mind it occurred to me that perhaps it is the same day, relived until I master its challenges. Just as our soul is reborn according to Buddhism and Hinduism and lives are constantly being relived until we are liberated from Samsara – the wheel of suffering.
But it is not a wheel, otherwise we would be aware quite soon that the ride was going round and round. Consciousness (manifest in most of us as a self that knows that it exists) is as Hofstadter describes a strange loop.
Working on the development project Calon Cerebellium with neuroscientist Prof Guillaume Thierry, I came to suspect that this strange loop is a möbius strip. This figure of eight loop used as a symbol for infinity is only the illusion of eternity and is what in our mind gives us the illusion of change, progress and a new day dawning.
Like a Scalectrix car, mind is canalised by our brains in a race around this figure of eight. The back of the brain intercepts sensory stimuli and the front brain verifies and makes decisions to act on its basis. However the sensory apparatus is severely limited and gives incorrect information about the nature of reality so the decisions are consistently wrong, but they are also wrong in a consistent way. So this consistency gives a sense of continuity to this flawed perception of reality.
But where the real magic occurs is the twist in the middle of the loop, the axis between these two functions of the brain. We race so quickly around the loop that we meet ourselves coming the other way but on the reverse side. So this is where we see ourselves and where, every three seconds we are reminded that we exist.
In this way we are deceived into perceiving ourselves eternal, and so the concept of soul arises, and the feeling that everything is changing every day. Of course change is continuous, but our perceptions, our patterns, our habits renew the moment we wake up..the same as before. So we do live the same day over and over again and we can predict pretty well which monsters will arise in our psyche. In this way life is a play, a practice and occasionally a battlefield.
Forum Theatre gives us a window into this process, a place apart, called the aesthetic space or stage, where we can externalise this strange loop. When Jokered (facilitated) to be context oriented this incredibly private and familiar mechanism is made public, and in that sharing, that ‘multiple regard of the other’; the nature of how we limit consciousness with this illusion of a self travelling in time, in a process of psychological evolution, can be exposed for what it is. Theatre.