When I first saw Iron Man I wanted Jarvis. So, I think, did almost every other computer geek I know. Certainly a lot of geeks of various kinds who work with things that require simulations or diagrams or anything like that, because having the ability to diagram in 3D around your head, and be able to manipulate the diagram just with a gesture? Not to mention the AI controlling all this can tell when you’re just wiggling your fingers and when you’re doing something on purpose? I mean, I love my Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but it has not as yet developed the capacity to tell when I’m making thinky noises and when I’m dictating to it. Alas. But Jarvis? I want one.
Before Iron Man came high school, and getting through that. I’ve been hacking my brain for a good long while, I don’t remember where I learned meditation techniques but I’m betting it was here in the mountains, at summer camp run by the parents of one of my best friends. This particular one was a technique I didn’t learn there, but I think I pulled out of a fiction book. Or at least got the idea from it. Take a red sphere, visualize it well, and send it into an orbit. Then take an orange sphere and do the same, without losing track of the red one or its orbit. See how many spheres you can get up to. Simple. Not easy, not by a long shot, but simple. I would pull this one out whenever my mind was racing too fast for me to keep up so I had to focus on something, maybe multiple things. This was before my cool-down meditation of putting my mental workshop back in order, of course. I practiced it for several years before for some reason it fell by the wayside.
So. We have Jarvis from the Iron Man movies, we have the Maerlyn’s Rainbow meditation exercise (no, it doesn’t come from Stephen King, but the notion amuses me), the third part of this is the blogging I was doing last night. Adsartha and I were chewing over the last chunk of this week’s episode of Grimm to finish that out for posting this morning, and since this week’s episode was a metaplot heavy one, there was a lot of chewing. A lot of moving parts. We were supposed to discuss the Royal Conspiracy aspect of the metaplot in more detail afterwards, but by the time we were finished it was late and she was tired, so she went to bed and I found myself upstairs in bed, mind churning. All I had was my netbook, so I didn’t have any of the diagrams we’d worked up to keep track of all the freaking moving parts. But I’d just been looking at it downstairs, I had it in my head, so, sure, I pulled out some visualization and I started working on it.
Just with a couple parts. At the end of the day and right before bed, I didn’t think I could keep it all in my head that well. It had been a while since I’ve done any purely mental exercise like this, with no text in front of me, no video, no graphical or textual notes to refer to, just mind work. So I put Person A in the middle, then a couple of his allies, then group B off to one side. And I fiddled with them a bit, trying to figure out who was on who’s side for real and who knew what, and I added in group C which was related to Person A but against group B, because they’re very integral to the plot by now. And eventually I added in Person D, who is at least tentatively working with Person A not that Person A or his allies trust Person D, but Person D also has access to group C’s itinerary or at least part of it, when even one of Person A’s allies who is close within group C doesn’t know… you see how complicated this gets?
And five minutes later or so I realize I’m juggling about six balls in the air, I’ve created sort of a giant mental orrery to keep track of everything, and I’ve become my own goddamn Jarvis. Just with my mind, and without a ‘save’ button, sadly, but with my mind able to keep track of a fair number of moving parts. Or, if you prefer, colored balls. Because thanks to the original format in which I’d put all this information to start with, all of the representations of these people and groups came out as spheres. With labels and slightly different colors. Literally, I was juggling mental pictures of about six colored balls, spinning them around, grouping them together, fingers waggling in the air as I directed my inner Jarvis to shift this over there and move that closer to that, ponder the information, relocate, start again back two steps. It didn’t yield any massive new insights, but it did clarify a few things and offer a few more avenues to go down for new theories. And, really, it was five minutes before bed and I should probably have just gone to sleep early.
And now I have to wonder, if that’s what I do when I’m punchy and half asleep, what could I do awake? Could this be the start of a whole new method of planning out novels? Could I do this for Black Ice? (Answer: Oh god I’m not sure I even want to try.)
Meditative techniques are amazing things. They pop up in the strangest of places, being helpful in the strangest of ways. I haven’t thought of that exercise in years, I certainly haven’t practiced it since around high school, but when I got bored and had no resources and needed a Jarvis, out it came. And your mental filing system and murderboarding method might be different! You might prefer to associate concepts with sounds to create harmonies, or scents, or something else. You might prefer the memory palace technique, and yes, that works. That’s pretty much this technique on a larger scale and with much more practice, and trust me, it works. But I cannot recommend highly enough the practice and regular use of meditative technique. Mental organization. Start small, build up, and eventually you’ll be able to hold a number of interlocking, separate, moving concepts in your head and manipulate them at will, without pen and paper or keyboard or other support. And once you can do that? Once you can manage that and then add the support back in, if nothing else for nifty things like save buttons? Well, who knows where you’ll go from then.