|A Mind Experiment|
A MIND EXPERIMENT
Entering the mind space of a Natural Runner
Imagine a pill that would give you the most extraordinary psychedelic experience: It transforms you into the mind-space of your ancestor from 1.5 million years ago. The chances are that we might even share that ancestor. We could go back even further to 3 million years and our ancestor would probably have the same brain in his cranium as you and me.
How would it be? All the senses would explode like a catherine wheel into full operation: sight, sounds, smells, and most vivifying of all – the body sense. The body sense is the core sense from which all the other tele-receptors, eyes, ears and nose derive. You are totally alert, fully awake, ready for action. Your 'thinking cap' (neo-cortex) is fully engaged with the senses and the body sense in particular. You think on your feet – with your feet. You look, scent, listen with your whole self, your body being totally poised alert and 'all ears'.
Short of a few marks in the the sand nothing is ever recorded. Our sense of memory is startlingly different. No more a repository or store-house, memory now resembles a kind of dream-like walk along the ragged sea shore of the present moment. Bits of flotsam and jetsom wash-up on the shore line to become immediately embodied in the total experience of the moment melding past and future into a dream-like stream of consciousness.
A completely awake hyper-vigilant alert state is the bedrock of your moment by moment survival. Your ancestral brain has the capacity for language but your relationship to words and language is radically different. Your language is thoroughly action orientated (non-conceptual). Remember nothing is written down or recorded. All know-how and information is passed through the generations by word-of-mouth. Myths, stories, oral traditions and rituals are powerful and magical ways of predicting and shaping the future. Words and language are vibrant and wholly tied to the planning of strategic, usually co-operative future action. This action based mind-space wholly enmeshes language and memory into the body sense/sight/sound/smell complex. Words have a dreamlike energy and magic and are wholly synchronised into the continuous process of planning and shaping future action. Words carve out and shape the future.
Words form the essential bonds that hold together a small band of hunter-gatherers. Our modern very fixed and set ego boundaries would now become much more fluid. Any sense of your self as an individual separate entity is now much less solid. What matters crucially is the survival of the group. Qualities of forebearance, empathy, comradeship, shelf-sacrifice may well be more developed in this ancestral mind set.
Doubtless there might be many other intriguing features we might experience on this psychedelic trip. Our modern brain though remains the same basic structure but it is 'wired' in a completely different way. The conceptual detached objective mind space we so often occupy has no place in the 'wiring' of our ancestral brain. Nothing is written down. Even, the root of the word, de-scribe or de-scription means to write down which puts experience into a passive, past tense.
There are a number of key features that distil out of our LSD trip into the mind space of our ancestor.
If our scientifically validated 2.4 million history as a distinct species Homo sapiens sapiens were a book with 1000 words per page then we start to write down our human experience about half way down the fifth to the last page. Writing is discovered around 3,500 BC in Sumer. It takes 4,000 years, until our lifetime in fact for literacy to become a well nigh universal human feature. This process, the alpha-betisation of the mind takes place in the same brain as our pre-literate ancestors. It radically transforms it. The transformative potential is our modern civilization. The 'pros' of the transformation are well and rightly celebrated. The 'cons' of the process are largely unknown and unexlored.
The workshop opens. I have these thoughts in my mind. They express a key concern that in our modern lives our thinking caps (our heads) have become disengaged from our kinesthetic (body) sense. Unlike our ancient ancestor we are rarely in the vivifying moment but we languish in some past memory or crave some future state. We have entered a weird trance-like mechanical sleep. By comparison to our remote ancestor, we have become mechanical in the many sense of the word. Ours is a mechanical age. We instruct machines to undertake the actions and increasingly our thinking becomes remote and detached from the action. We detach and step outside of our experience. We objectify our feelings, our emotions. We philosophise about love and truth. Such things for our not-too distant ancestors (e.g. Heraclitus) were active, process orientated things by which you lived your life more fully: the process of loving, the process of truing (actively bringing yourself into integrity). Bear in mind that all learning for our remote ancestors was done in the context of the action. You learned to make a bow and arrow by making a bow and arrow. You learned to plough by following the plough. All this has radically changed in an eye-blink of evolutionary time. Increasingly we sit at our computers and programme (instructing) them to carry out the actions. Systematically our schooling system sets about detaching the 'thinking cap'' from the body sense. We learn by being instructed detached and remote form the action. We are, for most of the 2,400 pages of the Human story powerfully kinesthetic creatures who have an exceptional brain that can think in action and a language capacity primarily designed to shape future strategic (and usually co-operative) action. Compared to the kinesthetically vibrant and rich play of our ancestral childhood we now take a human child whose whole cascade of instincts is to see the world as a gymnasium to turn cartwheels to having upside down fun, to skip around on, and we sit this child down and systematically put it through a process that numbs and dumbs down the body sense. Tacitly it continually inculcates, through continuous repetition that your eyes and ears are the key portals through which knowledge and information must pass more or less completely detached from any real action: “Sit still, pay attention. Look at the blackboard, listen to the teacher” and above all the classic and berating cry of the modern teacher: “No running!!”.
Our action, the way our bodies move has become like the machines that we take to be made in our own image. We analogize, liken our brains to the computers we have created. We even think our human memory should work in the same way as the computing machine.
Our actions compared to the actions of our remote re-literate ancestors, have become mechanical. Our thinking gear has desynchronized from our bodies. Our heads have gone of somewhere else – into the past or the future. While we are 'off' away in our head-trips, the body moves onto 'hold'. I t is put on the back-burner. It moves into the Past tense. The word 'posture' derives from the Latin word, 'ad-positum'. Posture is the past participle. It means, 'has been place'. Most of the time, while our 'thinking caps' are elsewhere our bodies are on automatic pilot. We act and behave as if we are on the assembly line. This is so beautifully encapsulated in the early and iconic silent movie made by Charlie Chaplin as he comically (tragically?) tries to mould his action to the assembly line.
All these ruminations are in my head when as I open the workshop, I suggest a metaphor. Our immediate future opens up like a gameboy screen with a road that perpetually splits into two routes. We perpetually stream down one route – the mechanical one:WE RUN MECHANICALLY. The aim of the workshop is to first and foremost stop the flow of traffic down the mechanical road the route well travelled. Like repositioning the points on the railway we want to initiate a flow down the road less travelled. This will enable the Thinking Gear to re-synchronize once more with the body. In this way we might begin to run creatively. There's a number of key things about this invitation to re-route the traffic onto the road less travelled, the road to the present moment.
Most of all you don't have to install any new hardware to achieve this your simply need, here and now, to do no more than connect into it, plug-in. It is after all the same brain as our remote ancestor! If this starts to work, if we can shift the points a number of things become apparent, that while our head are 'off' somewhere in the past or future, we miss the extraordinary dynamo of energy and vitality that is the life we have within us now. Life exists not in a recreated past or an imagined future. What we discern in our distant past and future are fictions. The only real possession we have is where our remote ancestor lived in the now-here which is in fact nowhere. Well – that's the invitation. It is a Big Call. Are we going to achieve this re-routing. Can we experience creative running ahead of the mechanical (reactive running). Well what holds us back?