How many times have you heard someone say “It’s all in your head”? Or you might hear a phrase like “What’s going on with them up there?” Perhaps a more archaic take? “They’ve got bats in their belfry!“
Regardless of which cliché or metaphor you choose, the idea that the seat of our consciousness and the home of our mind is inside our skull in between our ears is a long and deep seated one.
But what if that’s not the case at all? As Anna Halprin famously said, “The body is a microcosm of the universe.” Just as no star or planet is actually the center of things, perhaps our mind exists in some undefined space defined by our sensory inputs and environment?
Once upon a time, the greatest thinkers on earth considered our planet to be the center of the universe. That would certainly make our existence neat and tidy, but science and the development of human knowledge put that idea to rest.
Perhaps the same is true with our idea of mind? Sure we’ve got a very important mass of gray matter kicking around in our noggins, but there’s only so much our brain can do without the network of sensory inputs that give it the information it needs to guide us.
I’ve long been a fan of Marshall McLuhan who way back in the 1960s proposed the idea of that every new technology is an extension of our nervous system. He observed the shift in communication from print media, such as books and newspapers, to radio and then on to television. One can only imagine what he would have had to say about the internet and beyond.
The title of his most famous book is often misconstrued. He was not referring to the medium as being “the message”. He was looking at the developments in media technology from a more environmental and somatic standpoint. “McLuhan adopted the term “massage” to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium, taking inventory of the “effects” of numerous media in terms of how they “massage” the sensorium.”
“The Medium is the Massage” is a far deeper concept if you think about it. Whereas, in archaic times the sensory inputs our brain received stopped at the tips of our fingers, the range of our hearing, and the distance of our eyesight, every new development of media extends these capacities.
The written word in the form of a book could carry an idea from one end of the Earth to the other. Radio allowed our ears to hear at vast distances. Television, of course, gave our eyes a real-time window into events happening all over the globe. “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backward into the future.”
To accept the idea that our sensory inputs “massage“ our brains in order to form consciousness, then it stands to reason that our consciousness is expanding its reach as our sensory inputs are enhanced by technology. So then, one might say that our various modern mediums are in fact giving our consciousness a “massage”.
Such were my thoughts yesterday as I heard someone on the radio discussing new technologies that are purportedly cracking the code to “read” your mind.
When we think of the “mind readers“ of yore, from science fiction or the movies, we tend to think that they are somehow boring into the subjects head and getting at their innermost thoughts there.
But the tech-bros who are actively pursuing this (somewhat scary) subject say that it actually works the other way around. When they wire up someone’s head to monitor the brain waves, they also keep track of heart rate, skin temperature, and a number of other external and environmental signals.
The science seems to get fairly complicated quickly, but the gist of it is that our brain operates in the context of the signals it receives. In other words, our “mind” is not seated between our ears, but rather is an amalgam of a much larger system of inputs and impulses.
So it would appear that the late great Anna Halprin had it right all along. As science and technology progress, we are bound to experience our consciousness expanding right along with it.
As people with bodies (in motion), it’s up to us to remember who’s in there perceiving it all anyway!
Much love till next Monday!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine