I Love Books

I have books all over the house. When I get interested in something, I buy all the books I can find about the subject. Sometimes, when I read a book that references other books, I must get those books as well. For instance, I remember reading The Art of Hunger, a book of essays by Paul Auster. That book was a window into works of Franz Kafka, The Hunger Artist and Knut Hamsun, Hunger, both of which were very interesting. I don’t remember the book that sparked my interest in Hermann Hesse, but thankfully, I began reading his work. This doesn’t happen very often with me, but reading Hesse was just like a hot knife through butter. I must have been on his wavelength at the time.

I don’t read every book I purchase immediately; sometimes years elapse before I read them. I suppose my tendency to accumulate stuff is stronger than my follow-through. When I find an obscure or interesting title, I think, “Hmmm, I might not see this book again. I’d like to have it to read at some point. I’d better get it.” I obtained many of my books in this manner.

How is this relevant to a blog on autism and related neuroscience issues?

Well, I was on my way to the bathroom and grabbed an interesting book from one of the shelves. The book was Time in History, by G.J. Whitrow. Since many of my posts have been about memory and the passage of time, I thought this book would be particularly relevant. I put a lot of stock in remembering things correctly, although Mom says, “You’re not testifying in court,” so it doesn’t matter if what I remember is factually correct to be a cherished memory. I suppose that I want the narrative mosaic I am constructing about my life and my relationship with my brother Michael, to portray some degree of the truth. Michael is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal, so he can’t contribute to correcting memories of mine that may be erroneous.


I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but I found other interesting things to ponder, about the subject of time. One can’t do a lot of reading in the bathroom and keep a healthy digestive tract, so I only got to a few interesting points. I would like to explore many of these in greater detail, in a different room of the house.

Neurological mechanisms

Memory: Time distinguishes short and long term memories. If certain pathways or areas of the brain are not available to transfer immediate experiences to a longer-term storage, it is if they had not occurred. A person living under these conditions must be in an eternal ‘now’, an unimaginable scenario to me.

Development of language: language is time-based, because it involves sound. [It would be interesting to look into how time is introduced in sight-based languages, such as sign language.] Sound is generated by vibrating surfaces and transmitted through compression and decompression of the air. Speech is generated by the vibrating vocal cords. Whitrow[1] notes that Broca’s area of the brain “is thought to be concerned with the regulation of sequences [emphasis in original] of sounds.”

Concept of time; development in childhood: Whitrow draws from Piaget’s The Child’s Conception of Time when he states, “The child’s gradual acquisition of temporal concepts can be closely correlated with the development of his use of language. For, although our awareness of time is a product of human evolution, our ideas of time are neither innate nor automatically learned but are intellectual constructions that result from experience and action.”[2] Whitrow goes on to explain that a child lives in the present until about 18 months of age; between 18 and 30 months, the child gains some use of words relating to the future, such as “soon” and “tomorrow”. The use of statements relating to the past, according to Whitrow, develops more slowly in children.

My brother

I wonder how my brother experiences time. Since, he does not speak, that part of his brain is not developed. I believe that the language he responds to is based on behavioral conditioning as opposed to any understanding. Does he have any time-keeping sense in his head other than hunger? Perhaps hunger underlies all sense of time. Maybe there is some science to bolster this idea; maybe The Hunger Artist could shed some light on the matter. I should re-read it.

I guess my short trip to the bathroom will send me on another excursion to hunt and gather more books to devour so I can delve into these issues more deeply.

[1] Whitrow, G.J. Time in History Oxford University Press 1996

[2] Ibid, pg 5

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