Something was different today. Maybe it was the clouds covering the sky or the late night we swore we weren’t going to subject ourselves too but this morning was slow to get going and slow going all the way. I had actually woken up early and was going to make the most of it but my body wouldn’t have any of it, pulling me back down into the sweet dream land I was struggling to leave behind. We finally woke at our usual time to make our way down to La Pain Quotidien, a local organic bakery that does a mean Belgian waffle and managed to produce a real coffee that didn’t taste like NYC swap gas. We’d figured that we could knock off 2 sights today leaving just one left for our last full day in NYC so we headed up to our first target: the Museum of Modern Art.
I’d heard of MoMA before through watching some vlogs about NYC a while back. I was interested in it primarily because of that but also hoping that it wouldn’t just be all paintings on walls or halls of sculptures. You see I’m not usually much of an art fan as much of it bores me but I thought that the modern aspect of it might ensure that a few items would pique my interest. Upon entering we were greeted with an exhibit that was part physics experiment and part magic trick with 2 fans blowing into each other with 2 loops of some material hovering between them. I’ve got a video of it which I’ll endeavour to upload later and post below because this thing is seriously cool.
Thrilled with the prospect that this wasn’t my grandma’s kind of art museum we started on the second floor. The first section we went through was an installation from a Vietnamese artist which was basically a documentary about helicopters and their use during the war. It was interesting to hear the stories of those who lived through that war but it confused me as to how the thing could be considered art. We went on to the next section which was dedicated to the modern kitchen with all kinds of appliances and designs going back over 100 years. There was also an awesome amount of wartime propaganda about eating certain foods or breeding rabbits (they’re off the ration!) to help the war effort. It was almost surreal that those kinds of posters actually existed but then again I’m several generations removed from those who experienced the last total war.
The next section was all industrial design with various products and art based on those products. Some of these exhibits were interesting mostly for the information around when the products came to be. After this we started making our way up to the next few levels and this is where we showed our total ignorance of the art world. We breezed through the next 3 levels of varying walls of paintings only stopping a few times when we recognised things like The Starry Night or a name of a long dead painter. An hour or so later we were out of there and jonesing for some grub so I found us a little french place not too far away where we could rest up before tackling our next target.
After finishing a delicious lunch we had both came to the conclusion that we’re not particularly big art fans which means we probably won’t be visiting the 2 other art museums we have in our booklet instead opting for another high rise (30 Rockefeller) and just letting the other one slide. Walking out we both felt the same tiredness that had plagued us in the morning return with a vengeance. We wandered back to the hotel where we zoned out for a good 3 hours before heading out for dinner. We shared a slab of ribs and the returned back home feeling fat and happy.
Tomorrow is our last full day here in NYC and we’re hoping to make the most of it. If we feel up to it we might hit up the last museum on our hit list but we’ve still a couple other attractions I’d like to see before we depart this giant city. That will also bring us into our final week of vacationing in the USA and into some warmer weather, preparing us for what awaits us back home. I’m not thinking about that too much as there’s going to be a lot happening between now and then and my brain is firmly in holiday mode.
The brain is a wonderfully complicated piece of organic matter and we’re still in the early stages in our understanding of how it all functions. For the most part the basic components are well understood, like neurons and synapses, however when the whole thing comes together we get some extrodinary emergent behaviour. One of the most interesting behaviours that we all experience is that of dreaming, and it was this behaviour that caused me to analyse the last year of my life whilst I was on Turtle Island.
Among the many theories about why we dream there are a couple that really stand out. The first being that dreams are in fact your brain’s way of training you for certain situations (Coutt’s theory). Whilst this might not make sense when you have a lot of fantastical dreams such as flying I can remember many dreams that mirrored real experiences later in life. Whilst I can’t truly estimate how helpful these dreams where some of them did get me thinking about certain ideals and beliefs I had held, sometimes resulting in me discarding them completely. It definitely feels like dreams do serve some form of cognitive evolution to strengthen yourself against the world.
The second, and I believe most important, is for the brain to process, link and organise your memories (R. Stickgold et al. “Sleep, Learning, and Dreams: Off-line Memory Reprocessing”). It goes hand in hand with studies done that show a prolonged lack of sleep affects memory. This also makes quite a bit of sense to me since, for the most part, my dreams usually have some theme from the day woven into them. You can then imagine my surprise then when on the second night on the island I had, and can distinctly remember, around 15 separate dreams with themes that I could trace back to events that happened well over a year ago. It didn’t take me long to formulate a theory on what happened based on the 2 dream theories I’ve described.
Now I don’t usually think I’m a stressed person, in fact I usually thrive in stressful situations. The last 6 months of my life could easily have been described as some of the most stressful in my life, what with the wedding, investment purchases going awry and almost being unemployed. As far as I could tell I can physically cope with stress pretty well, but this series of dreams and the mental clarity I had afterwards lends me to believe that there’s a possibility that my mind was somehow pent up processing my daily life and was in essence backed up on down time processing. With everything being provided for me and the stress of the last 6 months far behind me my brain when into over-drive catching up on processing and linking up those memories. It seems to line up nicely with the fact that I had been waking up tired for about the past 4 months no matter how much sleep I got, which would seem to indicate that my brain wanted more time to catch up on memory processing.
The next few days saw my thoughts become a lot more free flowing and the conversations at the dinner table all that more interesting. I’ve never really gone on a holiday where everything was provided for me so I guess the combination of relaxation and not having to think about anything allowed my mind to unravel itself from the tangled mess I had gotten it into over the past year. I guess the moral of the story is that we all need some downtime to let our brains relax and recover from the daily grind and mine just so happened to be the honeymoon.
Or maybe it was the Kava… 🙂