Descartes got a lot of things wrong and in the interim caused a whole lot of problems because he spun some spiffy quotes that were too good to argue against, even though some tried. Perhaps Rene shouldn’t get all the blame, because it seems to be human nature that when one of us spouts something new, interesting and seemingly true, the rest of us run with it, like a huge football and we’re the team. That we’re running toward the wrong goal isn’t as important as we’re all hunkered together and we now know the truth AGAIN.
Today I’m berating Descartes for his thesis that the mind and body are two, separate things, which is called mind-body dualism in modern philosophical circles. This thinking lead to the good and the bad of modern medicine, for one, and treating people like they and their bodies are nothing more than a series of lines and pulleys and other mechanical apparatus. Even more modern medicine is showing how this, oops, isn’t quite true. With ever more sophisticated devices, psychoneuroimmunologists and their ilk, have been on the cutting edge of mind merging with solid matter since the 1980s. Modern medicine, on the peptide level, is beginning to sound a lot like ancient Ayurvedic medicine, which in many ways is the mother of the idea, “You are what you eat.”
All of this bums me out. Are we nothing more than sacks of watery chemicals now? That’s as bad as automatons being run by mysterious mind vapors. Mainstream science didn’t want to accept that insulin is made in the brain, as well as the pancreas because that makes a very messy gray area between brain and body. Endorphins show up in the brain and brain chemicals show up in our gut—showing the ancients understood having gut reactions better than we did (up until now-ish).
I can affect my mood by eating a lot of tryptophan, or by not having enough. Are my moods simply some kind of amalgamated upset brain-stomach conspiracy? Perception is reality and is my reality simply a bunch of gorpling compounds, out of balance because something that has nothing to do with, say, my unemployment? This trivializes my life experience so much that I don’t want to even think about it, yet it is at the heart of every Zoloft ever popped.
I think, at some level, that this is why people fight against “mental” drugs so much; they reduce our realities to nothing more than chemical imbalances, to be fixed, one-size-fits-all, like a broken leg. Our nuances and shades and perceptions are inconsequential in face of the scientific truths.*
*Keep the company of those who seek the truth and run from those who have found it.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Prompt = mind