Friday, March 19, 2010

of Brilliance and Brilliance.

My brain responds dramatically to light. All through the dark winter nights my personal struggles about [insert word] reach sisyphean proportions. I get especially dark and brooding. I quit things, break off relationships, decide [blank] is just not for me, pack my bags, hang my head and incessantly navel-gaze, during winter. Its flat out pathetic. Now that sunny spring has arrived in New York, I realize that this winter problem I have, is getting worse.

But then, a larger thought occurred to me. I know I am not the only person who reports these feelings during winter. And I started wondering about seasonal patterns of ideas. I wonder how music written, paintings painted, scientific eurekas, and novels or love letters penned—in winter—differ from those in spring. They must. Although, out of struggle, and winters of discontent, great work most certainly has sprung, but not if one found themselves too melancholy to concentrate.

Seasonality is something that is widely discussed in the primate ecology literature. Trees fruit seasonally (or mast), food abundance shifts and animals respond both behaviorally (less competition for more resources) and physiologically (better nutrition leads to healthier, and more, offspring). Or when any animal lives in a seasonally shifting climate, adaptations to fluctuating temperatures, landscapes and resources are what’s crucial to survival.

You might say our relationship to the earth, and its resources, is not knitted quite as tightly as the primates to their fruit. Globalization allows other climates to provide us with faraway warm-weather resources year-round. And we also have the option of hopping on JetBlue to experience a verdant season, somewhere else.

I know that light influences hormones in the brain. I want to know more about how other animal brains respond to light. And what’s with nocturnal animals, like possums and vampires, they must have some alternate neurophysiological profile to diurnal animals?

Also, perhaps more poetically, I am envisioning a cultural history of ideas, arranged according to how close the sun was to the location of the birth of each idea, published by Phaidon, or as a large mural, or information graphic, or a map in radiant color. Would there be some kind of latitudinal gradient of idea strength or quality as one approaches the equator, I am not sure.

Or maybe as the poem suggests, its not really the springtime or the sunlight, its the drama of seasonal change that seems to ignite an intellectual dawn. If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”—Anne Bradstreet

Oh and happy luminescent spring my darlings!


  1. I always loved winter.... bracing cold. I hated the summer, oppressive heat / mugginess.

    Last summer, I decided to LIKE summer. Sound stupid? It worked. I bought 4 pairs of shorts, some new sandals... stopped putting on A/C in the car, and began hitting the beach whenever possible.

    It was then that I realized that it was a cache of personal hangups and insecurities that fostered my distaste for shorts and the beach.

    I'm not saying the same thing necessarily holds true for you, but I AM saying that, in the world of the mind, we create our own misery and joy. When the winter comes, think of all the opportunities to relish a good cup of coffee, whilst gazing out the window at the mystery of what lies beneath that lead-gray sky, 100 miles out.

    10 layers of scarves.

    It's a state of mind, but the more enlightened you become, the easier it is to control.

    My favorite thing to do on a cold morning (in a warm apartment) is crack the window, lean into it and feel that crackling air rush over my closed eyes. It works best in the early AM.


  2. Yes, you are right, it is a state of mind. One winter I made a great mix on my ipod to beat winter blues, it helped a lot. I also have this theory that if I get a really awesome looking coat, I will appreciate the cold more. And I was in the process of becoming an avid cross-country skiier this winter, but then Spring arrived. So, baby steps...

  3. just found this: kind of interesting: