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An odd hallucination

05/03/2019
Clover and flopped Ananda

A typical Ananda flop

I was sitting on the floor grooming Ananda’s face and ears as he lay flopped on hallway tiles. I’m treating him for middle ear infections and clean away the goopy mixture of topical antibiotic and putrid discharge several times a day. (Hey, brachycephalic pet breeders. After the revolution we’re coming for you.) I’d been doing it for a while and was almost as relaxed as him when I spotted a small, fine, ethereal example of the spiders we generally called daddy long legs (which are actually mayfly sort of things and not even spiders). I have no idea what their proper name is.

It was hanging no more than a centimetre from the white tiles in what I now saw was a modest web between the floor and skirting board. A few tiny bits of dust and debris stuck to the strands but other than that they were right at the edge of my capacity to see them against the tiles and off-white board.

I rested my gaze on the spider and focus soon shifted to a point mid-way between my eyes and the diminutive spinner. A loose hair blew into the same part of my field of vision, quivering a little in the fan breeze, overlaying a shivery blur to the web. That’s when the hallucination started.

In a small ovoid area between myself and the spider – seeming around 2cm on the long horizontal axis, maybe 1.5cm on the short – there appeared an area of scrolling black text on a white background. There were short portions of three lines visible with the middle segment about 12 characters long and the outer ones about half that. It was scrolling horizontally and rapidly, left-to-right, and I doubt I could have made out English language words if there were any. From the brief snatches I could take in the words seemed either nonsensical or very foreign,  often unpronounceable, but the individual characters seemed very clear and regular, in Latin computer-style script and a font similar to how this one appears on my PC screen. There seemed a lot of scientific and mathematical symbols in the mix – though I was unable to recognise specific ones – and the word length and distribution of words and symbols seemed consistent with some technical articles I’ve read, particularly statistics heavy stuff.

The vision had been clear and stable for several minutes when the spider moved and broke the spell. At first I thought it had been a vital component of the illusion but it was because I had unconsciously changed my focal length when it stirred. When I relaxed onto the same intersection of hair and web with the same focus as before the scrolling text reappeared immediately.

When I moved my centre of vision slightly away, whether along the hair or the web, the illusion disappeared. There were a couple of other places where the hair crossed in front of the web but they didn’t produce the effect. It was something specific about that spot looked at in a certain way (as well as having something to do with chemistry in my head and ‘zoning’ while grooming Ananda I suppose).

I sat watching for some time (without reducing my attention on cleaning Ananda – I don’t need my eyes for it and it’s that kind of headspace) and it seemed as sharp and stable as if a real, tiny translucent screen was somehow hanging in thin air displaying backwards scrolling gibberish. After a while I gently touched the hair to see if I could move or disrupt the image and it disappeared immediately. After a few minutes trying to put the hair close enough to the original spot to get the same effect I gave up. I think the way it was quivering was a factor and after touching it I probably couldn’t get the frequency back.

So, neuro-blah-blah-blah, optical interference patterns blah, blind spot visual processing blah, blah, my history of psychosis, substance abuse and staring into screens blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?

Or did some cock-up programmer leave a small hole in the matrix where the source code shows through?

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4 Comments
  1. Given my decades in the IT industry and solipsistic tendencies there might be other reasons I suspect the fundamental creative force in the universe to be a cock-up programmer.

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  2. Hi Cabrogal,

    I used to see tiny figures running up and down the text of whatever book I was reading. Except that I did not have to read the book because the figures read the book outloud taking on the accent of the author. In this way I “read” Angela’s Ashes, or had it read to me in an Irish accent, which was so perfect that later on I could imitate the accent well. This happened with books from Scotland and Russian writers as well, so for a long time I could use all those accents in my normal speech. It was both unnerving and in restrospect quite fun!

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    • I suspect most people have pretty regular shifts in their states of consciousness, with corresponding insights, ‘delusions’, visions, ‘hallucinations’, … etc, but because of social conditioning to deny them and – probably more importantly – the way they can’t be captured adequately in either words or normal narrative memory, they’re prone to fading away like dreams.

      If there’s one lasting effect they’ve had it’s to break my attachment to a notion of what’s me and what’s not. The whole question of which of my mental formations arise from my consciousness or subconscious or collective unconscious or twisted memory or sensory input or neurological constructs or cultural influence or confirmation bias or biochemical malfunction or evolutionary psychology or divine inspiration or demonic corruption or determinism or free will or group-think or self or other … seems entirely inadequate and not particularly interesting. I don’t know if there’s a real line to be drawn between me and anything/everything else. And I don’t care. Except when I do.

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