Connecting Mind & Body
I spend a good amount my days reflecting on the past. It’s not dwelling, although that does occur, but in general I’m trying to figure what happened and what could I do better? Along with reflecting and the current books I’ve been reading I’m come to notice how I generally live a disembodied life. What do I mean by this? Essentially I’m ignoring my body, surrounding, and affects of my external surroundings. I believe most of us live this way in our society. It is part of religious/cultural/philosophical heritage. We are spirits trapped in this body, or we are mechanical with no value seems to be the dominant narratives.
I recently finished Terrence W. Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter. Besides being a book that was way out of my league I was still able to retain the essence of the book. In closing his book he said something which truly racked my brain:
We are what we are not: continually, intrinsically, necessarily incomplete in our very nature. Our sense of self, our experience of being the originative locus of agency, our interior subjective isolation, and the sense of emerging out of nothing and being our own prime mover-all these core characteristics of conscious experience-are accurate reflections of the face that self is literally sui generis, emerging each moment from what is not there.
I’m fascinated by the idea of self emerging each moment from what is not there. It seems counterintuitive. Something must come from something, right? But he speaks of the “efficacy of absence.” There is poem by Lao Tsu which illustrates this point:
Thirty spokes converge at the wheel’s hub, to a hole that allows it to turn.
Clay is shaped into a vessel, to enclose an emptiness that can be filled.
Doors and windows are cut into walls, to provide access to their protection.
Though we can only work with what is there, use comes from what is not there.
What is missing from me is precisely me. I am not something to grasp. My body is indeed part of me, but like a mold, I can work with my body (what is there), but its use is for me (what is not there). My thinking is that when I live disembodied, I live disjointed. My body is affected just as my mind is affected. Just because I ignore the former doesn’t mean I don’t feel, experience, and emerge without it affects. I remember moments of sheer frustration and so much anger where I had no idea what to do with body. The only thing I could think of was to leave immediately. My body tense, heart racing, and seemingly paralyzed the longer I was in that space. I wonder if I would handled that situation better if prior to I had listened to my body, lived embodied, so that when the time came I would be in harmony within myself. The relationship with another is highly influential not just on my mind, but equally, my physical body. Even when I would return to physical space that once housed a different life, I could feel it in my bones. I had to heal the space, which involved sitting quiet, calming myself, and letting my self just be.
I’m not sure if this makes sense, or if it is as disjointed as I feel most days. Either way my mind dominates my life. This needs to change if I am to be a better person for myself and others. I found comfort in this Deacon’s work because he admitted that we are “continually, intrinsically, necessarily incomplete in our very nature.” For me this is a relief and an affirmation of my experience. This incompleteness means that we constantly becoming complete. That each day, each moment, we can become more complete. We can think of what could be because in the potential the freedom to be realized and actualized. Like Deacon says in closing:
The universe is larger than just that which we can see, and touch, or manipulate with our hands or cyclotrons. There is more here than stuff. There is how this stuff is organized and related to other stuff. And there is more than what is actual. There is what could be, what should be, what can’t be, what is possible, and what is impossible.
We must imagine what is impossible because to deny what seems impossible is to reaffirm the status quo. Complacency is sub-human. Our brains evolved so we could dream, create, and make reality different. Unfortunately, we have to capacity to do the opposite and it seems that happens more than former potential. Empathy is a catalyst to dream of a better society for all.
As I write this it dawned on me as to, at least part of the reason, why I became so disembodied: I was unable to dream. All seemed lost, horrible, and my view of self reached a low. Perhaps I blamed my body because of the worldview I had where flesh is bad and mind is good. I’m not into that anymore.