Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Letterman Thinks about the Mind

As we all know, David Letterman is retiring from the "Late Show" after, well, not forever, but a long time. He gave a long interview to the good folks at The New York Times and they then boiled it down to 11 highlights. I've picked two of them.
On his heart surgery in 2000:

I was concerned that I’ll never be able to run again — that was my big concern. Because I had so relied on running, all my life, to get myself clearheaded. And of course, I was worried that somebody would go on while I was off with my heart surgery, and be good enough that they didn’t want me back. As I’m trying to recover from quintuple bypass surgery, I’m paranoid that my life is ending. And then, six weeks after the surgery, I ran for five miles. So let’s face it, I am a hero. There’s no two ways of looking at it.
The general issue is, of course, we all need ways of keeping in balance. But just what IS that about? What're we trying to balance with what? What is it about brain and body that's getting balanced, what chemicals and connections?
On what he’ll do after his final show:

I will be completely in the hands of my family. I will be going, later in the month, to the Indianapolis 500. And then beyond that, for the first time since Harry’s been alive, our summer schedule will not be dictated by me. It will be entirely dictated by what my son wants to do. And I think that’s pretty good. After you take a good, solid punch to the head, you’re just a little wobbly. I think in that state it would be good to have others making my decisions. That’s how he’s describing his retirement. A good solid punch to the head.
This is about balance as well, but from a different angle. For the last two decades this TV show has dominated his life; it's been one of the things he's been balancing against/with his running. And now it's gone. Whoosh! There's a big hole. How do you fill it?

I remember how, back in my university days, the Spring semester would come to an end and I wasn't teaching anymore. Teaching no longer took up a big chunk of my tine and mind-space. I spent the summer doing research. And it would take me a good two or three weeks to transition to an efficient and focused research mindset. I figured my brain was reorganizing itself around my new regime (I've got some more remarks along these lines at the end of "The Evolution of Narrative and the Self").

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