I was at some of my program friends’ house and the subject of religion briefly came up somehow. It’s interesting for us Americans because unlike the French, I think we just sort of slip into discussions of politics and religion as opposed to just going for it. Anyway, one of my friends cited a study wherein people prayed and their brains were scanned for activity. In those people, the areas related to two-person communication were activated, so it was as if the brain was having a conversation with another being. However, when the study asked atheists to pray to a deity, the brain was found to have none of the two-way activation that was found in the religious fellows.
Now obviously, I have no specifics on the study. I doubt it has been repeated and I don’t know what level of deviation or criteria were used. However, I am going to assume that the study is correct.
My friend interpreted that information to mean that people who believe in a diety create the being by the simple fact of believing in it. This is a theory I’ve come across in literature (if anyone ever read the Everworld series). My immediate reaction was to recount another experiment called “Spooky Action at a Distance” which I can post about at request.
But now I’m thinking. Does it really mean that we “create” God? I mean, on a really basic level I think all it really can be said is that the person believes themselves to be having a conversation…but we already knew that by the very parameters of the study. So what does it mean, if anything?
Here’s another sidenote. There has been discussion about “uploading” oneself into a computer. Some people even claim to be able to perform the feat within the next few decades. But here’s the thing: no one knows how to program emotion. Or, get this, a conception of the self. Here’s an article about that: click here.
Chew on it. Think about it.
Really, stop right now and take thirty full seconds to let that sink in.
I don’t believe anyone really understand how that works in the brain either. It just happens. But stop there for a minute. We don’t know where our conception of self comes from or why we have one exactly. We don’t know why we feel certain emotions (yes, I understand that there are a lot of identified mechanisms, but why). How do we know that we’ve been programmed “correctly” in regards to ourselves? How do we know that maybe there’s not another way to conceive of “self” that is “higher” than what we do now.
I know that’s all fairly disconnected. And I don’t have a conclusion yet, but think about those two things in relation with one another. And maybe take a minute to wonder about it.
‘Cause I only have fifteen minutes of internet left. The program office closes then. 😉
Yesterday was interesting…
I had class from 9-1 and then 2-4. And then bought food and cooked dinner with my roommate, a German student who’s interning here, my other roommate and one of our friends from the program. It was actually a really nice dinner. I ate chicken! It’s been a while since I’ve had a pure meat dish. Wait. No. I ate lamb curry at a Saigon restaurant. That was really good. There’s actually a pretty good amount of lamb to buy here. Might have to make some Irish stew sometime…
MORE IMPORTANTLY, we had another class about French culture. It was awesome. I didn’t realize just how much I missed learning facts and things until we started doing a really brief sketch of French history. I ate it up like crazy. I’ve actually never learned French history as such, just like the really important stuff here and there in relation to the rest of the world, but to learn about what was important for France…that was something really different and awesome.
I suppose I should also mention that we went back to the “Wohoo” because they had a foreign student night there. I finally got to meet and talk at length with some of the Californian students who are also studying abroad here. That was really nice actually. Oh. And I met a dude from Michigan who’s studying theology somewhere around here. He was a nice dude. I also met a British guy from London. That was an interesting conversation. He had a really thick accent and the music was loud, so I had to ask him to repeat several things. Apparently his parents live in France, but he and his sister didn’t really like it, so they went and go to school in Britain. Very interesting character. I’ll really have to put Britain on my list of places to go.
I’ve got a lot more, but not much time. Still no internet “chez moi,” so I only have an hour or two of it at a time. But, hopefully soon I’ll be able to speak with my friends and family in real time. Fingers and heart crossed. I miss them.
Today, or I guess it will be yesterday by the time I post this (yes still no internet chez moi), I had my first class of “le cours intensif.” It pretty much sounds like what it is. A crash course in French to the extent that we will be able to survive French university.
Yeah. Welcome to reality.
I feel so not ready for University. I never realized. I mean, I can speak almost fluent French (and after seven years of taking it, I definitely should), but this takes it a step farther. This class is not about understanding or speaking, it’s about being exact and accurate. I don’t think Americans really think about what that means exactly. It’s nothing for me to say, “In Washington D.C. the lobbyists call on the Senators to attempt to get friendly legislation passed.” But imagine trying to say that in a different language. I mean, just to be able to say it, you would have to know that vocabulary and then all the grammatical bits that go into it as well. It’s just crazy. I’m just shuddering ‘cause I want to take psych courses here. Ha. We’ll see how that goes!
In other news, an American girl from somewhere was walking to the University and asked me for directions to it…except that she thought I was French. Haha. She even asked me if I spoke English, to which I responded “oui, oui” ‘cause my mind is like literally split between French and English 24/24 (yeah, no 24/7s here in France apparently). And then she proceeded to try and explain what she wanted in France. I was really confused by that actually…cause I just said “yes” when asked if I could speak English. Haha. Oh dear. People. I love ‘em.
1) I like wandering around and exploring by myself.
2) I’m much better at doing everything but speaking French and much worse at speaking it than I thought.
3) I miss having the ability to chat with people on my own time. To sit and take an hour or two to just sit and Facebook chat or something.
4) I am going to have to learn how to buy food for myself.
5) Honey bees are like the flies back home. Don’t know why, but they’re freaking everywhere…and I kinda love that.
Je suis sans internet pour le moment.
There is no wi-fi, or really internet at all, in my apartment. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if the only way I could contact my friends or family was NOT the internet. However. Nothing I can do about that so…cyber café it is!
So. My adventures of the past day. We went to “Les Gorges du Verdon.” It was absolutely beautiful. Regardez!
Really though, it was awesome. I even went on a little adventure by myself to the bridge to see the gorge. That was cool. It went way back into the mountains. The water was a green-blue (you can see that, obviously) and apparently this is mostly because of the clay found in the region. The lake itself is actually man-made so that they could build power-plants along the way. Apparently the Verdon river is really, really strong and fast. Normally I might complain about damaging the landscape and such, but a) the French seem to be generally much more environmentally aware than we are in the states and b) that lake is frickin’ beautiful. Sorry. Just is.
And the clay is good for your skin.
The clay is also good for pottery. We went to a town called Sainte Marie that is well-known in the area for its pottery production. And ALSO, for a chapel near the summit of one of the mountains that back the town. Now there are a few interesting stories about this chapel. HOWEVER, to be honest I’m really unclear on exactly what’s cool about it. Because the lady guiding the tour was speaking in somewhat accented French and using a bunch of fairly obscure words. And I was tired. Might have a lot to do with that last one.
ANYWAY, apparently it’s a place for miracles and a bunch of really cool things. Barren women have been known to conceive after praying there (or at least one woman who went on the tours ha). Anyway, it was awesome. In all seriousness. I feel like I’ve gotten much less religious in a traditional sense over the years, but there was definitely something powerful about this place. First of all, it was quite a hike.
Second, it sits almost at the top of some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. They’re really incredible.
Third, it’s designed like a cathedral, as in the same style. But it’s a lot simpler. Like, it’s not built to awe in the way a cathedral is. I don’t see someone pointing to the awesome power of God who made this gigantic, towering building. No, it was something so much purer than that. It was a quiet space. It embodied what a place of worship should be: something quite, beautiful and thought-provoking. I’m not catholic, but I did buy a candle and say a prayer. And that’s a lot for me. I feel like it’s something I’m not supposed to do or shouldn’t because I’m just a tourist, but the sheer beauty of that place stripped me of all that. And I took one moment to calm myself.
After that we went to where the great Provencal lavender fields are. It’s all been harvested already (thank you abnormally hot summer), but we learned about how lavender is grown and processed. I bought a bar of honey soap and a honey sucker. Yeah, not very lavendery I know. However, the lavender stuff was fairly expensive. I spent a little over 2 euro for my delicious sucker and absolutely fantastic soap.
Oh. And some other mini-adventures for the day. I bought ½ kilo of candied ginger. For any of you who don’t know how much a half kilo is. IT’S WAY TOO MUCH GINGER. I’ll be eating that stuff for a year. Oh well.
And finally, on our way to the gorges, we passed an experimental thermonuclear reactor.
Really though, it’s fine. It’s supposed to be just like all-around better. So I guess that’s good. But still. THERMONUCLEAR.
August 25, 2012
The streets of this city are strange to me. Not simply because I have never seen them before, but because they are nothing like what I have seen before. This city has been lived in for 2000 years and you can feel it. Even the relatively new façade of the stone houses speaks with the voice of the aged.
It is strange to walk in such a place. People the same, but different. Places the same, but different, food even. The same, but different. It is the way I find myself feeling. The same, but different. There is something strange. Something strange within myself that I cannot seem to put down as fatigue or wonder or fresh experience. No. I suspect there is a touch of homesickness. But not for a place. For Professor Garrel, my family, Ellen even.
Still, such things do not come in the way of adventure, and this I must tell. I was exploring the town with my fellow adventurers (looking for food actually) when we came to a beautifully decorated building. It was made of old stone, the statues of a style not seen in prevalence for two hundred years at least. It was a thing of beauty. We asked some of the locals about it. Apparently this is the home of Lord LeNoir. From the tone and looks of the people we spoke with, he is not a man to be trifled with. And neither a man that they much like. Of course, we asked them about the man. Apparently he is a tyrant.
For now, I do not believe there is anything for us to do. However, there is a feeling within me that says he will have much more to do with our experiences here.