to be continued…
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009
Labor Day – a laborious act of leisure
Well, crap. I’d imagined that I’d’ve gotten back to this sooner. When I conceived of this notion nearly two weeks hence, I’d imagined a much simpler connection. Unfortunately (perhaps overfortunately), I have to remind myself that the connections in my mind are not as lucid as the laying the stones one-by-one method of explication.
Allow me to explain: Whenever I go from A to B to C, all the way to my conclusion (whatever letter of the alphabet that might be), I have a tendency to internalize the logic (or lack thereof) and assume that writing “A equals J” should make perfect sense to anyone. I admire greatly those who are able to write well. That is, I envy those who take on the tedious task of elucidating an idea, not leaving out the slightest salience (“slightest salience”, I kill me!).
New Latin, from Greek, madness, from paranous
demented, from para- + nous mind
1 : a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions
of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations
2 : a tendency on the part of an individual or group
toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and
distrustfulness of others
Julian Jaynes tried to make the case in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind that human consciousness had evolved and that its origins lie in a brain which at one time had been comprised of a sort of call and response system in which the call on the one hand, and the response on the other came from separate chambers. The stones he laid in making his thesis included chapters on everything from the observation of single-celled organisms’ response to stimuli, to the remnants of pre-conscious humans observable in cases of schizophrenia as well as the literature of Homer.
His book is neither widely accepted, nor is it categorically dismissed within the scientific community. But his theory is much less well known than Darwin’s, upon which it is based.
The model for the evolution of the brain in general, or more specifically, the human brain, is more mainstream and less disputed. It indicates the independent function of major sections of evolutionary development of the human brain.
The reptilian brain – thusly named for the parts of our nervous system which happens to dominate in reptiles – is responsible for involuntary functions such as those of the cardiovascular system. Additionally (and as any good Scientologist could tell you) it is primarily reactive in nature and hence responsible for the irrational manifestation of rage. It seems clear, however, that this fight or flight response to stimuli has a survival function, and even if it doesn’t include use of the rational mind, its resultant behavior could in many cases be viewed, albeit misnomered, as rational.
The mammalian brain includes more recent evolutionary developments which came to control other emotions, led to the construction of self-image, and eventually made use of reason and speech.
Jaynes did not attempt to draw parallels between these two major groupings of the brain and his bicameral model. At least not that I recall or care to research (laying stones is not for the weary or lazy). What he did that I found most interesting is point out that the characters in Homer’s work never acted of their own volition, rather at the behest of the gods.
At some point in our evolution, too, we began to take a dictation of orders from representatives of “our Lord” and began to behave accordingly. Today, if one claims to have been told by an angel to do something, he is called “kooky”, but if this is to include actually having heard voices (and he is lucky enough to have received adequate medical attention), he is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
As Jaynes claimed in another chapter of his work, schizophrenia is an evolutionary throwback to a time when people behaved like they did in The Iliad.
So it has come that I have integrated in my imagination a model of evolution which includes elements of all of the above.
The light comes on and I scurry to the dark corner; I don’t want the giant who approaches to trample me underfoot. Fast forward thousands of flashes of light later, and there is a knock at the door, which sends a jolt of fear right through me, and subsequently I am filled with dread at the implication: This person creating the knock – such a sudden and horrid sound that it is – must mean me harm.
In the latter example I may get over the initial shock of a sudden sound and, rationally, come to the conclusion that I have a welcome visitor. On the other hand, my survival mechanism from ages past may refuse to relent. The result might be an attempt to rationalize my fear: Perhaps the visitor is unwanted. Maybe it is a salesman, a Jehova’s Witness or a pair of Mormons.
In rationalizing under the pressure of a reptilian brain, however, I might not consider the specific implications and simply come to the conclusion that the thing beyond the door has it in for me personally. It sounds as convoluted as it is complex. So is evolution.
Which is why those who insist that they are inspired by their “Creator” are so unrelenting in their insistence that their model be included in educational curricula: They are afraid that if they don’t enact the will of God that they will be burned as infidels in the eternal fires of hell (when Armageddon finally arrives).
And so it is, here, that I strive to claim that this might be because one time, a long time ago, those who didn’t heed the voice that cried, “Run!” were smashed like bugs.
Brother Theodore knew the score (courtesy of the network that brings good things to death)