On Van Gogh, Lewis, Koontz, Autism and the Afterlife

Here’s a thought process: I’ve long believed that part of what we take to be “mental illness” is the brain perceiving reality differently, particularly in the case of schizophrenic disorders, hallucinations, etc.: that whatever connection there is between the soul and the mind is overactive, so the person is extra-ordinarily aware of the ordinary spiritual activity that surrounds us. St Anthony of the Desert was once given a view of the angels and demons simply fighting at that moment over his soul, and asked not to be shown it again lest he go insane.
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about sensory overload. If you dare, here are a couple videos that simulate sensory overload experiences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oe7yNPyf2c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcS2VUoe12M
Tonight, I saw an interesting video on Vincent van Gogh and physics. The article and video can be found here.  Van Gogh’s painting’s, particularly Starry Night, accurately depict the motion of the stars according to the phenomenon called “turbulence,” and Hubble Telescope researchers found that patterns from the Hubble telescope match van Gogh’s work.  That’s the nutshell version of the physics: the articles leave open the question of *how*, but at one point the video touches on the neurological side of things, and that’s what inspired this blog post.  Now, if I understand what they’re saying, all the Impressionists depicted light in a way that’s revolutionary and matches with things scientists discovered later.  They all seemed to intuit or access perceptions of light that most people aren’t aware of, but our brains can still process.
Van Gogh, however, was the only one to do it with such detail and scientific/mathematical precision.    He did all this during the same period of  “mental chaos” that led to both cutting off his own ear and painting his greatest works.  They’re stopping at “apparently, by depicting the chaos in his mind, he accurately depicted the chaos in nature.”
What if the chaos in his mind was caused by perceiving the chaos in nature?
What if van Gogh was what  we call “severely autistic,” and hyper-perception turned to sensory overload?  If you have no idea what “sensory overload” means or is like, and think it means “ate too much sugar” or something, please watch (and listen to) the videos I posted above. The closest possible experience is migraine, and that’s not even half of it.
Imagine: for some reason, van Gogh went into complete sensory overload.  He could see light so well he was seeing turbulence.  He could hear every sound around him in a deafening cacophony.  That’s why he cut off his ear-to try and stop the sound.  He channeled the visual overload by painting things the way he actually saw them.
Now, the theological side of this discussion.  My wife has been reading Dean Koontz‘s books, particularly the Odd Thomas series.  If you don’t know Koontz, and are looking for someone other than the usual litany of ChestertonEliotLewisTolkienO’Connor, read him.  I started with Brother Odd, and was hooked when, within a page, he referred to Batman, Odysseus, and nuns who think they’re “social workers who don’t date.”  Anyway, as she’s told me about different Koontz books, we’ve discussed what things struck me as reminiscent of Lewis, Eliot and O’Connor.  I suggested she read The Great Divorce next, so while she’s read that, we’ve been discussing how Lewis depicts part of Purgatory being the soul’s adjustment to the sheer Reality of Heaven: grass, for example, that feels like walking on knives because it’s so REAL.  St. John Bosco had a dream where he saw a stage of the afterlife that wasn’t even the beginning of the farthest outskirts of what we call “Heaven.”  St. Dominic Savio, who greeted him there having already died years before his teacher, said that “No one can see Heaven and live.”
Perhaps it’s because Heaven is so overwhelmingly real.
Now, if you haven’t, go back and look at the sensory overload videos.
If the phenomenon/symptom that was originally called “autism”–catatonia, retreating into oneself, etc.,–stems from a brain that is so aware and so full of information that the person can’t handle it, and has to find some way of dealing with all that information that shoots in and out constantly–if Vincent van Gogh, as I’m speculating, had such an experience and was so overwhelmed he cut off his ear–if my son can have a meltdown because he suddenly keenly remembers some incident from when he was 2 or 3 years old like it just happened–imagine being suddenly confronted with the ability to instantly remember everything that happened in your life: every good memory, every bad memory.
Imagine being suddenly able to, if you and God will, see or hear anyone, anything, anywhere in time or space, at a level of detail that you cannot possibly imagine now.  That’s to say nothing of the Beatific Vision.
If you were to die after reading this, do you think your psyche (both in the modern and original senses of the word) would be truly prepared for such an overwhelming crash of reality?   It’s what Plato described with his allegorical man from the cave who suddenly goes from seeing nothing but 2D shadows his entire  life to seeing three dimensional people and objects in full color, in the sunlight.  Do you not think that you’d need to at least let your eyes adjust?  Like jumping into a swimming pool, you’d need to adjust a moment to the drastic change in your surroundings.
That adjustment is Purgatory.

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