She raised one hand and flexed its fingers and wondered, as she had sometimes before, how this thing, this machine for gripping, this fleshy spider on the end of her arm, came to be hers, entirely at her command. Or did it have some little life of its own? She bent her finger and straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge.
Ian McEwan - Atonement
On Friday Derren Brown failed to stick me to my sofa through televisual hypnosis. He succeeded with Martpol, whose sofa may be comfier than mine.
The idea was that by watching a film and absorbing various suggestive techniques, some viewers would be hypnotically coaxed into a state of mind where they would be unable to lift themselves from the couch and escape, no matter how they tried (The Antiques Roadshow has been doing that for years, you might say, ho ho ho).
So I tried it, watched the video, then… lifted myself up, in mild, unsurprised disappointment. But I did want it to work. Or did I? I was conscious that I wanted it to work, which perhaps nullifies the effect. It seemed to me that Brown was trying to mess about with that mysterious instant between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act. Or at least, he forced me to think about it, as I focused on that inexplicable series of signals and mechanisms… I want to move my legs, I will move my legs…now? Now? Now my legs are moving!
Or again, you could say that Brown did force me to move against my will, only in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t otherwise have stood up at that moment (I was quite comfy after all), without Brown trying to get me not to stand up. I got up even though I didn’t want to get up. And the series of signals and mechanisms was buggered: I don’t want my legs to move, I’m telling them to move but I don’t mean it, (or I’m telling them not to move and I don’t mean it?), I won’t move them now…Now? I am moving them now! Damn. The wave breaks in reverse.
So was this an assertion of my free will or the opposite? The awful, nauseous freedom of the moment between the conception and the creation, between the desire and the spasm, between the almost infinite range of things you could do, and what you do do. Crazy things can happen in that shadow. They usually don’t, of course, but they can….