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The Mind Has a Body Too

By Carl S. --

It’s 5 a.m. You don’t really want to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and have your adrenalin pumping like this, like me; to hit the ground running, first thing. But I have no choice.

I have something the doctors call Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and I know it sounds disgusting, but it’s even worse to live with. This IBS got me thinking because, when I am awakened with its effects, I usually get thoughts related to my hobby of critiquing and ranting about the abuses, inanities, and irrational claims of religions and/or their adherents. This morning though, I awoke thinking about a jigsaw puzzle that my wife and I might start building, and how she wasn’t looking forward to doing it. So, I’m wondering, should I start it anyhow before she wakes up, and why the hell do we commit ourselves to doing things, even for other people, when our hearts and minds aren’t in them? Doing such things can be aggravating, even though they’re sometimes satisfying, or at least gotten over with and out of the way. So I’m having all these thoughts from the same cause or symptoms, but over a puzzle instead of religion. Maybe there’s a message here.

This brings us to the mind-body connection. I’m especially concerned here with influences of the body on a person’s THINKING. History provides some colorful examples of this connection: Nietzsche had a nagging and persistent physical ailment, as did Karl Marx. Hitler suffered from eczema and stomach pains and may have had syphilis, Parkinson’s, and/or hypochondria. And how, do you suppose, did the putrefied gash in Henry the Eighth’s leg and his sex drive influence his religious and political decisions for England and Europe? What of the madness of King George III and it’s relation to the American Revolution?

Consider the effects of hallucinogenics, alcohol, and disease on the brain as they are related to decisions made not only by ancient kings, but prophets and “holy” men. Shouldn’t we expect these substances and conditions to affect these men’s interpretations of the world and how it works? The outlets through which the body protests and screams can depend on the character and prejudices of the sufferer. While one person might be as aggravating, ornery or impossible to deal with as his ailment, taking it out on those around him, another might be like me, discharging the discomfort in philosophical and religious rants. A third person might rationalize the suffering as “a cross to bear,” a test of patience or virtue in preparation for a greater, heavenly reward. A fourth might interpret his suffering as a curse from a God or gods, or as torture inflicted by devils or demons.

Fortunately, we live at a time when things are more “cleared-up” than ever before. We can usually ascertain the physical cause leading to emotional/ mental effects. Knowledge is power and gives us a way of dealing with things as our predecessors couldn’t. Makes you wonder how much better the history of humanity would have been if previous generations had had the knowledge we do. (And isn’t it bizarre that exorcism, voodoo, and religious mumbo-jumbo are still with us?) Like the man who asked Sigmund Freud, “If my devils depart, will my angels leave, too?” we have the option to keep them all - but NOW we know WHO they are and why.

Sometimes the physical aggravations lead me to creative things, aggravations of pleasure, to the extent I’ll add to them with caffeine. Others benefit from alcohol or nicotine. (What is it that, working against evolutionary advantage, drives us to do/take things against our best interests? Wasn’t it Dorothy Parker who said that all the things she liked were immoral, illegal, or fattening? )

Why post these thoughts on Well, to point out that whenever people start talking about the ‘spiritual,” we ought to consider not just the mind, but also the physical effects the body works on the mind - both good and bad. The evidence is overwhelming that there is no such thing as a mind separate from a body (and that includes the “mind” of a bodiless god); that’s an illusion. This mind-body separateness theory may be the oldest superstition of all.