Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mind when it matters


As a Cartesian dualist, I’ve always believed the mind lords it over the body with a “peel me a grape,” attitude, and the body scurries around to satisfy the mind’s pursuit of adventure, excitement, passion, gluttony, desire. If the mind has raised the roof too high and the body starts to sulk, then just treat the latter to some thoughtful fuel and measured care, and everything bounces back good as new.

And for most of us, for a time, maybe a long time, results prove this true. But one day results will turn on us, and the mind will command but the body won’t listen. What then? Will I lose the faith? Afterall, philosophies are opportunistic. We adopt them to suit the occasion at hand. Perhaps philosophies, like promises and legs, are made to be broken. When I fell down a mountain a couple of years ago, my Cartesian dualism had a bit of a splat. I walked on a broken leg for three days before finally denying my denial. In that battle, it was Body - 1; Mind – 0, until medical intervention called it a draw.

A couple of people I know are up against some pretty harsh realities, and they’re no longer able to pretend the mind and body can go about their separate business. These people know the body, such a willing accomplice, a sycophant, for all those years, had simply been biding its time. The body is now belle of their personal ball, the focus of much of their time and attention and emotion.

But as I blather on to them about all my trivial pursuits, they don’t shout: How can you talk about this crap you fool, when someday you’re going to hurt, and you’re going to die!

No, instead, they smile, laugh, treat me kindly -- almost gently. There are some things the body can’t steal from the mind, if it’s in the mind to begin with.

These people are my friends. Because they’re my friends and fortune leads to a shadowy place, they want to let go of my hand. Now it’s my turn to hold on tightly.

27 comments:

  1. Hmmmm. Very interesting. Serious. Deep. (Especially after just getting back from Old Town)
    Thought provoking...

    I'm trying to guess who KB may have chosen as her guest blogger today.

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  2. Yesterday I did something I haven't done since I was a wee wee lass, I took a tumble to the asphalt from my bike. Sure, my dopey dog was involved, and I'm no spring chicken anymore, but considering some of the medical news I've gotten over the past few years, the rehab I'm going through for my lousy neck, surprisingly, I sprang back pretty quickly. Rehab works.

    Death and disease are mean and stingy, aging is inspiring. Your friends know this. And they love you.

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  3. Damn. What can I say or offer but prayers for your friends and mine that are struggling in many, many different ways. As I grow older, it's more and more heartaches. People I love. We must hold on to each other.
    V

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  4. On 2nd observation, de coloring, or shades, of your photo really go well with the text. It does retell your story in picture if you set your mind on it.

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  5. Keep on doing what you're doing and be there for them. I'll pray.

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  6. This is so nice and interesting !!Beautiful..

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  7. Powerful! "Peel me a grape," indeed.

    I absolutely believe in the back-and-forth between mind and body, which makes it more astonishing that the medical field has been so slow in studying this (or so it seems to this layman).

    Remember, please, that your chit chat with the friends might be for them a welcome relief from dark thoughts and pain. Many friends simply drift--or sprint--away.

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  8. You mean, personal dance, don’t you.

    As always, have a friendly DAY! (or should I say, “peel me a grape”)

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  9. I don't know why, but I thought of Kant:

    Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.

    GG

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  10. It has been too long since I studied Cartesian Dualism... I should thank you for reminding me of all I have forgotten.

    But don't let go of them. In a round-about way, I think of my father. His body failed first, his mind and spirit were still racing. Then his spirit and brain failed, and his body was the stronger. But I never passed up a moment to hold his 'broken' hand or to touch his 'broken' spirit. We both bounced when our hands and minds touched. And every bounce was unexpected.

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  11. Your friends are lucky to have you, Karin. And you them.

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  12. what a beautiful post. Thank you

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  13. Wow. Them's some words...beautifully written.

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  14. Maybe I never pressed the "publish" button, because I thought I said something but it's not here. Maybe it was too flippant.

    The other thing I was going to say was too depressing.

    But this is really good. Could be a much longer essay, if you wanted it to be.

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  15. I worked with my half-brother this weekend past, he twenty years my senior. I didn't really get to know him until the latter part of my life.
    We often perform construction related, physical labor, though more and more it involves solving difficult problems using our experience, intelligence, reasoning, and sometimes, just gettin' plain damn mean.
    Mental toughness comes into play so often now...
    Jack is in his seventies. He is one tough son-of-a-bitch.

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  16. I'm with Petra, it should/could be a much longer essay.

    But then maybe the brevity of it allows us all to draw our own conclusions. I re-read it and still say "Good stuff".

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  17. I tried hard not to sound maudlin, because it's not, they're not, I'm not. Just wanted to write about a hard little truth.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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  18. Bless you for this beautful piece and for being the friend that you are.
    V

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  19. Beautiful post. I sense you're working through something here. I suppose the balance of power has to shift sometime. Until then, I'll enjoy the benefits of youth and stupidity.

    My heartfelt best wishes to you & yours.

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  20. Your piece reminded me of an interesting article on the BBC News today about self-awareness, which is something we share with chimps - until they get old.

    "...in later life chimpanzees prefer to lose their ability to conceive of themselves," the article says. And according to the scientist conducting the research, "The price you pay for being aware of your own existence is having to confront the inevitability of your own individual demise. Death awareness is the price we pay for self awareness."

    (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8314093.stm)

    Hmmm, is this why we get forgetful as we get older?

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  21. Inspiring and touching post.

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  22. Bellis, that's very interesting. As an aside, I don't think that's the only price we pay for self-awareness.

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  23. This is so beautifully written. Thank you for summing it up so well.

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  24. Illness is formidable.

    You are good medicine for these friends of yours...

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