The clockspeed of human perception | OPINION: Peter Eichenberger | Indy Week
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The clockspeed of human perception 

The clockspeed of human perception I won't go into the "why" of the hideous details, but four years ago it was heal myself or die. I lay in bed for days, thinking of nothing, bearing witness to the slow death of a hornet. When the life force finally left this beautiful, dangerous creature, an event in my head, a never-ending implosion/explosion/collision awakened this odd purring, present--unsettling, new. Over weeks, my clockmaker brain tried to reason what had happened. The reverberations were a resonance not unlike a deep gong, dying but never disappearing, which I grew to call the Big Nowhere, a "thisness" that left me, the house, the dying hornet, singing like a deep organ note, rich with subtones.

The ding-dong went off when I synthesized two frequencies. In the early days of the movie business, those skin-flint Hollywood moguls discovered that 24 frames per second (30 for video) is the minimum number of frames necessary to create the illusion of movement via the so-called persistence of vision. Aurally, the lowest frequencies humans can perceive hover around 30 hertz (Hz = cycles per second)--the opening organ stop in Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," the heart-beat on Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon." Thirty hertz is what I call "the clockspeed of human perception."

I submit that our worlds are, in a sense, created and destroyed every thirtieth of a second, and that each of those soon-to-be-gone worlds are sacred events one would be well-served not taking for granted--available afterward only by memory and the unconscious. You can visit the Big Nowhere waiting for a bus, sitting in a darkened room. It can take you right off the edge.


I'd felt the heat of the ruined WTC towers and was at my old joint, Mona's, on the Lower East Side, chatting with this pretty good-looking old broad on her third Tom Collins about my strange day and what was bubbling up in the old pot.

"You're Buddhist, right?" she says.

"Say what?" I looked at her blankly.

Patricia smiled. "Honey, go down to the temple on 15th Street; they'll fix ya right up."


I clapped. Last month, I heard the echo. It was time for a vision quest, which for me involves physical deprivation--little sleep, starvation--and a lot of beer. After a few weeks, reason and thought become disabled; intuition takes the wheel and you begin to operate automatically, opening yourself to things you normally filter out.

By the 28th, the magic was working--distorted vision, sounds, spontaneous weeping and laughing, an inability to process thoughts. My little world was moaning like a bari-sax.


It was one of those post last-call late-nights, just another party, this one at the Prairie Building, a residence for artists and such, catty corner from the Capitol.

It's 4. I'm swacked, surrounded by bright, young folks, the clink of glasses and music, talking to this gorgeous chick I have never seen. She stops. "What's that light?"


"That glow. Around your head and shoulders."

"What are you talking about?"

"I can see this orange glow." (

"Really?" Cool. Whatever. But after a while, I'm talking to another gal--and she Says The Same Thing. Uh oh. Whoops. This is way off the chain, even for me. Fucking with me? Unlikely. Nothing had happened and I hadn't mentioned anything. They didn't know each other. It's not like I walk around town saying, "Hey look everybody, see the orange glow?" Eichenberger's really driven off the cliff now.

That is what they said. I don't make shit up and I don't lie. I'm just a reporter.

Saturday, I sought counsel.

"See if you can get your hands on a copy of the biography of Marpa the Translator," she said. "He was a tantric sage and one of the founders of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and by many accounts, a Buddha himself. He was a strange character, a notorious drunk, father of six, free spirit. The founders of this tradition left the monasteries because they believe scholasticism and politics were being pursued at the expense of true practice. These are the guys who ended up living in caves and charnel grounds for years and were labeled madmen with magical powers ... Marpa describes in his biography his realization of Mahamudra--the luminosity, the awareness of thoughts and feelings without going with them, the practice of experiencing primordial awareness off the cushion; in other words, life is your meditation. There is no samsara or nirvana. He calls it meditation without effort. As I understand it, it is letting go. He says there is no need to analyze and try to alter your mind. You just take what is already there and accept it. He allowed himself to enjoy sensual pleasures because he said he could do so without clinging at them or grasping."

Mahamudra seems like String Theory, the interconnectedness stemming from the idea that the universe, reality is composed of buzzing energy--solidity itself, the material world is something we make. Our brains create reality. (

She is confident about my status. "I can feel something," she says. I am perhaps seven feet away from her.

Sounds cool, but I am scared. It is like a solid rocket booster. Once it's kicked there is no turning it off. It can only be steered. Feels like I am losing it, but it's different than a manic thing. I am manufacturing psychedelics in my head--a brightness, sounds I can't identify--all swirled in this unending, unrolling present. It's all one purring ball, an onion, a torus, connecting everything--the bugs, the people, the very rocks the earth is made of.

My mother is going to be furious.

I roll on through Saturday as best I can, head swimming, wandering from bar to bar, ending at the end of the evening at Kings. I lurch through the door and take my seat at the bar. "Rich Girl," by '80s cheesemeisters Daryl Hall and John Oates, is on the juke box. Then, behind the bar, I see the pencil drawing of Mr. Hall.

Hoo-boy--this is a live performance. The stage is full of Daryl Halls. Daryl Halls are running all around the club. What the fuck is this? An Elvis thing? A cargo-cult? The GodHead? Another dimension? Daryl Hall wanders by, lugging a 55-gallon Rubbermaid of empties.

It makes no sense--the craziest, most absurd thing I have ever seen. This is no "tribute," these bipeds are channeling Hall and Oates. This is it: exactly what I am talking about. My transcendence. I start laughing, really laughing--so hard tears are squirting out of my eyes.

Why we live: to participate in this world that makes no sense, to wallow in the joy, the moment, with the knowledge that in a sense there is nothing, no time, no solid objects--all a bundle of energy. A bottle is not an object, but an "event." We make a collective agreement to create reality--in this case, the Hall and Oates planet. I am wallowing in the "thisness," half expecting my hand to pass through the PBR bottle like smoke through bamboo. The bar has developed that distinctive purr, the band, me, the universe moaning like a didgeridoo.

"I'm a balloon and I want to let go of the string," I say to a friend.

They get this serious look on their face. "Eichenberger, dude, don't let go of the fucking string."

Right before I almost let go of the string, this dude approaches. "Anti-Semite," he snarls, and socks me on the jaw with a passable right cross.

I forget about the string. My thought is to break a bottle and kill him--twist it into his neck--but he's gone. So I just get another beer and sit down--no anger, just pure unalloyed wonder and joy amid this wondrous purr.


I'm dimly conscious. I have lost my phone, the bike, my money, my silver/hematite pendant. I have been in bike wrecks, punched, drunk every damned can of Bearish Stout in the city and I don't need to pull the blanket back to see that I don't know where I am. Lessee, about the time I was ready to release the string, some black marks I didn't place on a piece of newsprint three years ago, words I never actually said, induced a collision between a cloud of subatomic particles and another assemblage of, well, nothing, basically. Still, my jaw is kind of sore. Holy fourth dimension, Batman! I lie in the dark under the blue afghan and giggle.

Finally I pull the blanket back. It is this '50s house. Some folks are on the back patio. I get up and stumble outside.

"Excuse me, can you tell me the address here?"

They tell me.

"Slightly north/northwest of Cameron Village, right?"


I thank them, walk out of the house into brilliant sunlight, orient myself, and begin walking, things greatly clarified.

Anyone finds that pendant can return it or keep it--either way, lemma know.

The numbers are 3, 7 and 108. The frequencies, 600-530 Hz and 510-480 Hz.

Further readings:

  • Marpa the Translator, Prawn Press, Boulder, 1982
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