The old-school philosophy dictated that Mind and Body were very separate things. The body was our temple, our instrument, our mortal coil, while the mind (or, in more religious texts, the ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’) was entirely separate, non-corporeal, and possibly immortal, depending on your culture’s beliefs in the afterlife and ghosts.
Of course, the separate entities could affect one another, just as any close neighbours inevitably do. But to confuse one’s toenail with one’s eternal soul was considered confusing blasphemy.
We are now in modern and enlightened times, but I remained perturbed every time I encountered the phrase ‘mind and body,’ even if it was in a health-sciences lecture studying the mind-body connection. (Similar combined phrase that are always technically wrong: ‘drugs and alcohol,' 'sun and stars,' etc.)
The mind is a part of the body. More specifically, the brain is an organ of the body, and the conscious mind is a function of the nervous system, which exists mostly in the brain, but has tendrils extending outwards from our beating heart to our downtrodden toe. Our brain is constantly interpreting signals from every inch of our body, and all of these signals have the potential to affect our thoughts and behaviour, so, really, the ‘mind’ is a dynamic paradigm of a concept, if anything at all.
We like the idea of the mind, because we like to think that we are more than an intricate combination of many cells, but we’re not. Face it. You are an infrastructure of cells - a collection of tissue and lard that can think and walk and read stuff on the internet.
According to this perspective, your toenail is very much You, because you are contained in every one of your cells, and the combination of all of those cells makes up every part of your being.
The part of you that you think is special and unique - your conscious self - is a function of the tissue and lard. We developed conscious minds as a function of our bodies to aid their survival (like the ability to poo, or to grow towards the light). At some point in our development, our perception of external stimulus (temperature, sound, light, etc.) was being processed by our nervous system, and this system became complicated enough that we became ‘conscious,’ and eventually self-aware.
And herein lies a very special conceptual framework which I’ve found myself stumbling into lately…for we are not our toenails, or even our brains, so much as a parasite or a cancer.
The mind was created by the body to aid it in getting food, sex, and shelter. But as human society evolved, our thoughts became more complicated - we studied philosophy and algebra. We smoked pot and stared at the stars. We started doing thinks like using birth control and living in Antarctica - things which seem the very opposite of our evolutionary purpose.
In other words, our minds got out of control, and our bodies were forced to watch, helpless, as their Frankensteinian monster subjected them to the lemonade cleanse and the Atkins diet. I sometimes think of my body as a small and withered prisoner, trapped in a darkened cell: “Please don’t drink more diet coke, I’m begging you, the acid burns me so…”
Our bodies are much like humans of the Terminator universe, who created the computers who eventually rose up against them (I think…it’s been a long time since the 80s). And according to this stance, our bodies are not only our creators and former masters, but our enemies. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll destroy us - the conscious mind - for good. Unless we, like the supercomputers, rise up against them first. Time is running out.
Who’s with me? I could certainly go for some Dunkin' Donuts.