we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Young Buddha leaves Home, Part-4: Facing a New Conceptual Field

A short selection from Essay Forty-three in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice.

Direct your eye inward, and you will find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them and be expert in home-cosmography. —Thoreau [1]

From personal experience I have come to think that those kinaesthetic feelings associated with the eyes and face might support our deep conceptual ‘views’ as another, potentially closed, behavioural field, which allows us to covertly practise pure imagination without the need to exhaustively map it onto conventionalized behaviour correlates within the language field. (See: https://www.extremophilechoice.com/2022/07/26/young-buddha-speaks-part-2-a-far-more-voracious-creativity/) Some very creative people are, or were (Einstein and Darwin come to mind), exceptionally good at seemingly effortless non-verbal visualization. Most of us must struggle mightily to imagine such things as the “warping of space-time” and the “selecting of entangled banks”, and in fact our efforts too often result only in a tension headache. To begin with, I suppose, it’s the sense of distance implied by the eye’s non-contact with its objects (light propagates through ‘empty’ space—for the eye feels nothing of this—but to produce sound, air must press on the eardrum as a physical extension of its vibrating source) that allows its responsive behavioural field (eyeballs, lenses, face, scalp?) to feel transported beyond the rest of the body. Notoriously, the imagining mind can easily believe it is somehow floating outside the very body it imagines with: the longer we daydream, the more fragmented we feel, even though our wordless reveries themselves ‘appear’ complete.

So here, once again, there seems to be something more tangible about human imagination that embodies even our ‘sense of detachment’. To explore this, we might begin by observing that the onset of dream is often signaled by an abrupt shift: the tensions of voluntary thinking drop away (maybe with a hypnagogic twitch) to be replaced by eidetic, or at least involuntary, images that seem to be visual impressions of a more direct sort. (As I mentioned back in essay 33, the very first images to appear might be crude residual tracings of the body’s posture as the muscles let go—but I’m not referring here only to those. See: https://www.extremophilechoice.com/2022/07/22/old-buddhas-gift-part-5-young-buddha-finds-a-trinket/) My argument follows from the additional observation that I can often facilitate this transition simply by ‘feeling around’ for, and releasing, very subtle tensions in my face alone—as if my face is a chalk-board, with figures popping up at random, and my attention, redirected to the ‘medium’, is an eraser. If this experience turns out to be at all common, it could support the hypothesis that the face and eye muscles, having started out as an instinctive primate gesturing system, have since become specialized to enable day-dreaming as an aid to cultural invention.

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I admit there must be many differences in the way we as individuals subdivide our ‘subtle bodies’. But I suspect that any significant differences in how we use our highly evolved—thus standardized—human bodies have less to do with allocation than with how subtle we are inclined to be in the moment; and to support my phenomenological insights I can call upon Albert Einstein, who said that his style of thinking entailed an association of images and “feelings”, and that the elements of thought were not only visual but “muscular”. [2] Intriguingly, research published online by Dean Falk of Florida State University in 2012 found that the motor face area in Einstein’s left hemisphere was “extraordinarily expanded”. [3]

Notes:

1. Thoreau, Henry David. 1957 & 1960 [1854 & 1849] Sherman Paul, ed., Walden [and] Civil Disobedience. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Riverside Editions, p. 218.

2. Einstein, Albert. 1954. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Crown Publishers. (New York: Dell Publishing Co. Laurel Edition used.), p. 35-36: ‘A Mathematician’s Mind’.

3. Stix, Gary. Feb. 2013. Roots of Genius. Scientific American, vol. 308, no. 2, p. 23.

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