Friday, 26 February 2010

Mind vs. Body III

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend last week after work, and part of it revolved around the concept of love. I tried to make a distinction between love and being 'in love', and something clicked: this distinction seemed to me to be the clearest example of the difference between mind and body I have found thus far.

Loving and being 'in love' may seem synonymous to many, but for me they are two very different things. I have felt love for many people I've known and respected - friends, professors, writers, model photographers - but the best way I can describe my personal version of that sentiment is a warm, almost comfortable feeling that almost always brings a smile to my face. Love for me is a sentimental mix of respect, reliability and confidence. As for the physical sensations the sentiment brings me, it is a warm, almost fuzzy feeling I can almost feel leaping between my head and my heart.

Being 'in love', on the other hand, is a purely physical experience that affects the mind in a secondary way, a sensation that hinders or even ignores the mind altogether. I would say that being in love is a purely 'chemical experience' resulting, foremost, from the recognition of a genetically compatible mate, or, secondly, the recognition of a mate fitting (sometimes preconceived) ideals of what a perfect mate would be. The feeling of attraction, the need to touch, to hold, is only physical in its origins, and, although exhilarating, can sometimes be even quite painful.

I like the 'roller coaster' analogy of being in love: it's a good description of the ups and downs resulting from the battle between body and mind. One is first drawn by the animal giddiness and need, then restrained by the mind's 'secondary thoughts' about things such as personal situation, customs or morals.

The 'roller coaster' period always ends. One can have resurgences of the feelings chemical attraction create, but that can only happen if one maintains a positive relationship with one's mate, a relationship based on respect and confidence - or, in one word: love.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Reason vs. Culture - my quest for Objective Analysis

Going back to my earlier writing on the conflict between gut and mind, how can one examine oneself to, not only determine the cause and effect of his own behaviour, but to determine the very origins of the cause itself? One has almost to separate oneself from oneself, or, in observing others, forget that one is human altogether.

Speaking on a personal note, I began at a very young age to try to determine the reasoning behind what I was told to do (or the origins of people's definitions of wrong and right) instead of simply following the rule without question; this often led me into conflict with those giving orders and education, and set me apart from everyone else who was content to operate within a fixed set of rules.

I can't say that this made things easy for me. On one hand, I was generally seen as an outcast, as an unpredictable someone who's reactions to 'normal' social interaction was never that expected. Yet on the other hand, over time, I was seen as one who had answers to almost any problem - answers that often, although practicable, were again not those that any 'normal' person would think of. In short, although I was seen as weird by almost everyone I met, I was often useful for the same.

I wouldn't wish a lot of what I went through on anyone, but I have to say that, as far as thought goes, my curiosity, research and conclusions brought me a satisfaction - call it 'solidity' - in my thought processes that resulted in a feeling that was as close to freedom than any definition of the term I can think of. I suppose one could consider this sort of 'outside the box' research process as one particular to someone 'arty', but I more often tend to put my as-objective-as-possible conclusions to more practical purposes.

I'm not saying that anyone unquestionably following the status quo for behaviour is wrong per se; I even think of the behavioural status quo as sort of a machine in which one operating by the rules can even easily find happiness and satisfaction. Yet should the machine as a whole begin to ail or cause problems, it is difficult for one operating unquestionably within the rules to find any solution, especially when that person has never learned to examine the machine and problem analytically from a 'big picture' point of view and not from the perspective of one's role of a cog within. It's hard to fix a motor while you're in it.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

On the Brink II : Areas of Evolution

I think three areas of the world reflect most clearly three different approaches to dealing with the battle between gut and mind: North America, Asia and Europe. I apologise in advance if some of the below seems cliché or even racist, but I'm just trying to outline and define the major tendencies of each population, and some of these may smack of existing prejudices. Don't worry, there's some for all.

North America seems to be taking the 'gut' approach. Almost everyone there judges their existence by their 'comfort level' — an existence centred on possessions and the 'feelings' that these bring to their owner. The question of 'need' is almost totally absent from the question; this has been replaced by a 'comfort level' set by the status quo — or in other words, a comparison of one's own possessions and purchasing power with those of others. As for the mind, for the larger part of the populace, thought and the exchange of ideas and information seems to be centred around comparing/justifying the valour of products, and the 'feelings' that these bring. When one applies this attitude against the real world and our real needs as humans, I almost consider it a state of denial. This is a tendency centred on the majority of the population — the middle class — but even the upper-class North American citizens of today tend to use thought to justify and defend a certain state of comfort.

To the opposite extreme, Asia, especially Japan, has taken the 'mind' approach. Everything there is centred around education and the exchange of 'useful' information and products, an exchange based on a very strict and long-standing protocol of politeness and hierarchy. There, save for a taste for gastronomical pleasures (all the same based on a strict diet) and 'identity' objects, the body seemingly does not enter the equation in matters of sex and comfort — the 'usefulness' of each act is prioritised. In fact, unhappiness and discomfort, or an enviable state almost akin to martyrdom, is embraced by the general populace as a sign that the sufferer is making a 'sacrifice' to the 'greater good' of the community and is perpetuating its strict moral laws and behaviour. This tendency can be found through all levels of Japanese society.

Europe seems to lie almost exactly between the two. Intelligence and education are indeed a major part of European culture, but the tools gained there are used, in a very selective and 'network-connected' way, to gain personal stature within a selective community network and to fulfil an often very individualistic sense of comfort, an egotistical sense of comfort that I would almost call 'self-satisfaction'. Contrary to the other two areas of evolution, the general tendency seems to diminish through the lower classes towards a level of comfort that is defined by one's usefulness and standing in an often very small community.

Each path is in some way in conflict with our basic human nature, especially where reproductive habits are concerned. The human tendency to seek multiple (and always younger) partners is almost forgiven there, and at least until recent years, being/having a mistress/lover had an almost respected community statute of its own — but within a couple, it creates all the usual problems. Infidelity in Asia is considered wrong, but the social rigour and lack of attention to bodily comfort in the greater culture often pushes people (mostly males) into infidelity; what's more, the wronged gain stature by their 'martyrdom', or the sacrifice they make to preserve the family stature in suppressing the quite natural emotions of betrayal and outrage that occur from such circumstances. American pairing habits, especially in the upper-middle class (the highest follow a protocol almost European), is a confusing and ill-definable affair, most likely because their concern with an immediate and ever-changing definition of 'comfort'.

In all, each culture's means of dealing with the conflict between gut and mind is defined by the stress they place on each: cancel one, and the other suffers.