Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Free your mind...

This is another one of those topics that has a habit of branching rather quickly. Hopefully can stay focused without too many tangents.

How much control do we really have over ourselves? That isn't really a rhetorical question. You might expect that simply by asking that, I am implying that you think you have control but really you don't. But thats only half right. We actually don't have much control over ourselves, but some people are more aware of this than others. As you may recall from my first "Thoughts" post, our actions and thoughts are the result of trillions of calculable events that occur in our brains. Going a step up from atomic and subatomic interaction, we get to molecular and chemical interaction. In this case specifically, emotions. Emotions like love are not magic. If you are feeling depressed, its not because your dog just died, its because the chemicals in your body are interacting with your brain in such a way that makes you feel bad (see first Thoughts post for more info). Think about how you feel right now. You're probably calm and can think in a rational manner. This is your Default state. For the most part, the level of chemicals in your brain are overall average. However, get too much of any one chemical and suddenly rationality can go out the window. If some guy punches you in the nose and insults you, its very 'natural' to get angry and lash out in a way that you normally wouldn't. This is when your body takes over and pushes your Default state aside. The drive for sex is quite possibly the strongest emotion or state of mind that decimates normal behavior. As I've mentioned before, the basic meaning of life is to make more life. To reproduce. In order to ensure that life goes on, evolution has done a fantastic job of encoding everything living thing's DNA with the desire to make more of itself. This goes back to how the brain rewards us when we do things that keep us alive or spread our genes. Sex only feels good because if it didn't, life might not have gotten this far. And now here's my two cents about the whole thing. I hate my body. My body is just a car that my brain drives except that quite often my 'car' drives itself and my brain is almost powerless to stop it. I can't stand the fact that I don't have complete control over myself. To me, the mind is infinitely more important than the body. So maybe being a head in jar wouldn't be so bad. This is where the topic has a tendency to branch out. Consider this: what if everyone was just a brain in a jar with a mechanical body? Suddenly reproduction is irrelevant. Suddenly gender is irrelevant. Suddenly everyone is just a mind that is free to experience the world without evolution instilled dependencies like sex, eating, and sleep to hold us back.

I doubt in our lifetime (or probably anyone's lifetime) people will be able to transcend their physical bodies and escape these chains. However, I think I am getting a little closer to winning the battle over my body. I think that just being aware of how and why my body and emotions work, gives me power so that I can force control over myself. You may recall my recent abstinence vow. Its getting easier to stop myself from checking out every girl I see. Its a daily war but I think its starting to affect my subconscious and soon I won't even have to tell myself not to stare at the hot girl at the counter.

I feel kind of like I'm in the Matrix, but instead of being a slave to it I'm a slave to my emotions.

"I know what you're thinking... Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?"


Anonymous said...
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Janine said...

but the brain is where a lot of those chemicals are created (the hypothalamus)and where the signals are for the release of the chemicals granted its not necessarily a conscious decision on your part to release them but its still the brain that is the trigger...

Christian said...

I know what youre saying. I think what I really mean by "body" is my physical self. And I should have refered to my "brain" as my mind instead. What I was really getting it was complete seperation of mind and body. Unfortunately, I cant quite resolve the fact that a mind cant exist without a physical medium to inhabit, i.e. the brain. So it may not even be possible to completely seperate mind from body. But I cant help wanting to...

November 1, 2007

andy said...

I'll bring in my 2 cents here with my current area of study and knowledge...that being early Chinese thought/religion/ philosophy. The Eastern concept of the mind vs. body is different from the Western concept in several regards, and I think it relates directly to your dilemma. It is this very dilemma that these "philosophers" attempted to solve.

Some interesting notes:

-Before the scientific knowledge/capabilities existed, there was no word for "brain."
There was however, "xin" which from classical chinese can be translated as the "heart-mind." Interesting to note that these 2 were paired together.
-During the Warring States period, after Confucius and Laozi (Whom is credited as the author of the first Daoist text), many philosophers debated over the concept of the heart-mind: it's purpose, if it's good or not, how to use it best, etc.
-From Laozi and my personal fav: Zhuangzi, a school of thought eventually formed, combining and borrowing ideas from them to form Chan Buddhism in China, which became Zen Buddhism in Japan, after Buddhism was brought over from Korea to Japan in the 5th century. (sorry to bore u with history) My point being: The prime purpose of Zen Buddhism is to essentially escape from the body. You may already know this, but in most forms of Buddhism, the body is associated with desires, which are believed to cause suffering directly.
-Eastern Thought/Religion (The line blurs as this is a post-enlightenment distinction) basically divides into these groups: A. those who believe that we have been corrupted by society and must revert back to our simple bodily desires (eat, sex, sleep, etc.) Body=good.
B. those who believe our bodies are evil and only by freeing ourselves from the physical realm (including our "shell") can one truly be free and good.
C. those who believe we must rule over our bodies with our heart-minds, as a ruler rules over different states of his empire. body=necessary part of a whole, but needed to be kept in order.
D. those who believe we must empty our mind, which only makes distinctions that can hurt us, and free our minds so that we are lead by our spirit. body=vessel for the mind and for the spirit.
Group A would tell you to just let it happen. Group B would suggest you cancel ur playboy channel, throw out the tv, and meditate. Group C would encourage ur present path. And Group D would point out how you are only suffering because you choose to see (with ur mind) these emotions/lack of self control as wrong or undesirable.

I think it's important to consider where you consider unwanted desires come from. The Mind? The Brain? (It seems to me you are distinquishing the mind from the brain) Body? For me, I experienced conflict within my mind where half of it wanted a bodily desire, but another half desired freedom from that very desire. It becomes very tricky when parts of the mind clash, I think. Certainly, in this thing called the "self", there is more than one voice with more than one want/need. But how do we know which voice is truly us, particularly when they disagree?

Jimmy said...

"evolution has done a fantastic job of encoding everything living thing's DNA with the desire to make more of itself"

lies! and the part of sex feeling good so we continue to reproduce. all lies! our instinct to reproduce is before evolution. evolution only really exists because we reproduce. our common ancestor, probably a single cell, had the goal of reproducing no evo needed. and i dont think mitosis felt good for them.

i know it's beside the point, but it would be hard and probably pointless to come up with a relevant point after andy released his book of a reply. *bows to andy

lastly, battle royale!
everyone and their bodies need to have a giant battle royale.

andy said...

well, i felt i didn't suggest enough ideas for Christian's crazy assignment, so I tried to make up for it here...and I have trouble being "brief"....

The scientific aspects of the question are beyond me, however, so I enjoy reading and learning about them.