" The ebb tide feeling. At ebb tide this cellular activity is all so intellectually vulgar and shunnable, but when the flood tide returns the vulgarity magically turns into a high-quality attraction and there’s a deflection of mind by something that isn’t mind at all and there’s some feeling of awe in this. The mind sitting detached, aloof and discerning is suddenly rudely shoved aside by this other intelligence which is stronger than it’s own. Then strange things happen that the mind sees as vulgar and shunnable when the tides are out again…"

"…The language of the mind has nothing to say to the cells directly. They don’t understand it. The language of the cells has nothing to do with the mind either. It doesn’t speak that language either. They are completely separate patterns. At this moment, asleep, "Lila" doesn’t exist any more than a program exists when a computer is switched off. The intelligence of her cells had switched Lila off for the night, exactly the way a hardware switch turns off a computer program.

The language we’ve inherited confuses this. We say "my body" and "your" body and "his" body and "her" body, but it isn’t that way. That’s like a FORTRAN program saying, "this is my computer." This body on the "left," and "This body on the right." That’s the way to say it. This Cartesian "Me," this autonomous little homunculus who sits behind our eyeballs looking out through them in order to pass judgment on the affairs of the world, is just completely ridiculous. This self-appointed little editor of reality is just an impossible function that collapses the moment one examines it. This Cartesian "Me" is a software reality, not a hardware reality. This body on the left and this body on the right are running variations of the same program, the same "Me," which doesn’t belong to either of them. The "Me’s" are simply a program format."

"Lila," pages 228-229, Robert M. Pirsig

The previous paragraphs are something anyone who can call themselves human have experienced and have probably mulled over on a daily basis. Just how much control DO we have over our own physical bodies? The answers range from none whatsoever, to absolute, depending on who you ask. And I personally think that both answers are equally correct. Although I did not want to expound too much farther on Pirsig’s arguements, since it’s in the book itself, he suggests that the body has its own intelligence that is separate entirely from the mind. As he states above, they "don’t speak the same language." However I disagree with him somewhat…Cases abound that show that the mind…Applied conscious effort…Can bridge the gap between the purely material and pure consciousness. Assuming you believe the body is indeed purely material, which I do not, but current mainstream scientific thinking says otherwise. Stress…Meditation…Stigmata…The placebo effect…And these are just the ones that are scientifically proven to bridge that language barrier; to say nothing about things like healing prayer, Qui-Gong, or Chromotherapy…

I believe that the body’s intelligence is formidable, as Pirsig illustrates well, but I also believe that it’s…Plausible…That it’s intelligence is as sentient as our own. Which may sound ridiculous. Consider for yourself what is sentience, exactly? I mean seriously consider it before continuing.

Merriam-Webster defines it as "responsive to or conscious of sense impressions." states "having the power of perception by the senses; conscious;" and "characterized by sensation and consciousness." Now let’s call up the body (separate from it’s controlling intelligence, which is what IS "sentient" or "conscious" by most people’s reasoning), and the mind as we know it. The body, naturally, can respond to sense impressions. When you touch a hot stove and your hand jerks back, few of us consciously decide that this is hot and to remove our hands, unless we consciously overrode our instinctual minds in the first place. The body received the sense and its intelligence hijacked ours because it works faster. And considering all of the senses we know of have biological roots, again, the body can be said to have the power of perception by the senses. As for "conscious" being a definition of sentience, I think that’s more a synonym than a definition, unless you care to make the arguement that "awake" or "aware" is sentient, in which case, one has to define THAT. I think sentience fits that bill rather well, so we’ll stick to it.

This is getting tedious…

Characterized by sensation and consciousness…We’ve already proven the body can sense…But what makes something "conscious?" I don’t feel like pulling up a dictionary definition of consciousness, since we already know how hazy and nebulous these words are. Plus, this was all leading up to my own definition (and I hope you still have yours) of sentience (and by extension, consciousness). I would define "sentience" as: "the ability to make decisive actions against what would be predicted by the recognized laws of nature based on sensory input." Which sounds rather unwieldly, but that’s what I’ve got. Here’s something to think about: move your left finger. Congratulations; you’ve just violated the laws of physics. From a purely materialistic standpoint, there is no reason at all why you should be able to do that; your finger’s constituents are a highly reactive mixture that works against entropy to maintain itself and can receive direct input from wherever the conscious decision-maker (you) resides. If you break down your finger to its elementary constituents, you won’t find any sort of "God Particle" that made that decision (at least, they haven’t found that yet, and I would bet good money they won’t anytime soon), yet the decision was clearly made and it wasn’t your body’s intelligence that did so, although it could if it so chose, as we all know when a muscle cramps or we suffer a fright. Mind IS conscious…BUT is it conscious without the body?

Fit your own definition of "sentience" that you came up with. Can the body fulfill that definition, independently of mind? Can the mind do so without the body? If so, them what does it say for our vaunted intelligence? What does it say for animals? Plants, even. Besides the obvious light and nutriment-sensing capabilities they share, many plants are capable of communicating on a chemical level when browsed on, sending chemicals into the air that cause other plants to step up toxin production to make themselves palatable. Sorry,  "sending chemicals" is not the best way to say it. "..when browsed on, speaking to other plants to step up toxin production to make themselves palatable…" And to anyone who thinks talking plants is ridiculous should consider why chemical communication is any less ridiculous or refined than acoustic vibrations or wavelengths of light (of which plants are also capable of detecting, and some studies suggest, utilizing)…

Ajahn Chah once said "these bodies are not ours; if they were ours they would do what we tell them to. But they get hurt. They get sick and they die. Clearly we’re just borrowing them." Or something like that. But I firmly believe that the body’s, and the mind’s intelligences are not only real, but can interact with one another, and I suspect that this is where the metaphysical lies. Take yoga, qui-gong, and other body-mind unification exercises…They’re popular and work for most everyone probably because they have at least some basis in fact (and yes, by extension, I do believe the same of many religions, despite the venom I occasionally spew).

Ugh…I’m running out of steam and after re-reading this I’m not making sense anymore but I don’t want to delete this. I wanted to touch on the mind’s intelligence, but my hand hurts, and I’m tired (body’s intelligence saying shut up and feed me), so I’m making the decision to stop writing for now. But I think there’s something here. Consciousness is the forerunner of everything…

Categories: musings, Uncategorized

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