|Stephen Wiltshire draws a city from memory
Soaking in certain books and lecture materials (mainly revolving around the works of Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary) over the last few weeks has had me often floating in a deep, blissful and prolonged appreciation and consideration of the human brain, nature's astounding biocomputer.
Back when I lived in a house that had cable TV, the 2006 documentary miniseries called Beautiful Minds: A Voyage into the Brain captivated me to the point of having to record the entire series and take considerable written notes on it. The documentary told the stories of a number of savants, many of them autistic savants, and the possible scientific explanations for their incredible capabilities.
What so interested me about this phenomenon and what continues to keep it popping up in my mind years later is the important lesson this teaches about the potential of the human brain. I've been listening to lots of Timothy Leary lectures lately and the main running theme through his four full decades (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s) of challenging people's minds is the miracle that is the human brain and how little of it we are normally trained to use.
(This is my first attempt at embedding a book page from GoogleBooks. Hopefully it works.)
From Robert Anton Wilson's novel Masks of the Illuminati (which I've been reading with the RAWillumination.net reading group):
“Science had already revealed to them that 99.9% of the physical universe was invisible to their senses …” (pg. 125)Reader Oz Fritz (who writes this excellent blog) had this to say about this part of the book:
A physicist once told me that if you stacked a sheet of papers from the Earth to the Moon and called that all the energy or 'information' out there, the part of the universe perceptible to humans would about equal the thickness of one sheet of paper. In light of that, the sentence that follows looks quite interesting...
"but they were not capable of deducing from that that an equal part of the mental and spiritual universes was also unperceived by them as they robotically proceeded about their mammalian business of survival, reproduction and nurturing of their cubs." (pg. 125)When you can somehow manage to give less dominance to the narrowly focused left-brain, you can open up unfathomable possibilities in the right brain. The Beautiful Minds documentary includes the story of an average Joe kinda guy who got plunked on the left side of his skull in a baseball game and could suddenly calculate, immediately and with perfect precision, what day of the week any date would fall on, far into the future or past (interestingly, that strange ability is a common one among savants). He also could now recall from memory what happened on any day in his life.
In light of the human brain information I've been soaking in most recently from Leary and RAW (and also with consideration of Richard Maurice Bucke's thesis in Cosmic Consciousness), I'm now beginning to see people like Stephen Wiltshire as personally representing quantum evolutionary leaps in the human species.
Stephen Wiltshire is my favorite savant from the TV series, mainly because his ability is so simple, so precise, and so fucking astounding. Mr. Wiltshire, a young man from London who was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 3, can take a pen and draw a perfect and intricately detailed photographic representation of anything after looking at it just once. He frequently pulls the trick by going up in a helicopter, observing a city from above, and then drawing the entire cityscape on a massive panoramic panel.
There are no words for this. Perhaps "magic" would begin to grope at it.
Watch him draw Manhattan after observing it for 20 minutes in a helicopter ride. You can see him do the same thing for Rome, Tokyo, Madrid, Hong Kong.
And here, for your viewing and brain-tingling pleasure, is the Beautiful Minds TV series in its entirety: