We alter our field of perception, Become new patterns of behavior
"A reporter asks about Koko as a person. I turn to Koko, Are you an animal or a person? Koko's instant response,Fine animal, gorilla." Francine Patterson. National Geographic 154(4).
We are returning from an art show in Port Douglas where Freddy and I demonstrated my latest Moirascopes. Walter decides to stop by and visit Ian Wilson, who runs a small fruit tree nursery at the foot of the tablelands ridge just north of Cairns. His home is nestled into the steep land forests next to a little stream. Ian is a rotund, friendly character with a big beard. He and his wife Dawn are forest people - modern elves. As Walter talks with Ian I look over his bookshelf and pick out "Music of the Spheres" by Guy Murchie.
"You'll enjoy that," Ian catches me thumbing through it. "Would you like to borrow it?" I nod and smile and begin reading a few passages as Ian continues, "The physical universe simply explained. It's a lovely book. He's writing a summary of the living world now. I can't wait to see that."
Later, on the drive back to Cairns, I decide to tell Walter about my ecstatic kaleidoscope lessons. Spurred on by Guy Murchie's delightful writings about atoms and molecules and music of the spheres, I talk about how the atoms of the planet are the same ones created in the star billions of years ago. I try to give him some feeling for the awareness of ancient atoms - the same ones - flowing through all the layers of human behavior. The atoms presently creating my form have, perhaps, been alive as trilobites and dinosaurs and Neanderthals and cats and whales and perhaps, even in Walter Starck.
Walter glances away from the road and looks at me but says nothing. If he is impressed he is hiding it well. "Maybe I didn't explain it right. Anyway, what do you think?"
"I think you've finally gone off your nut." We ride in silence for awhile, he driving, me waiting for him to continue. But that's it. All he says.
"It's kind of hard to explain." I sound a bit surly even to me. Walter ignores me.
"You had to be there to really appreciate it. It was a soul-stirring moment." I mumble more or less to myself. Freddy is in the back seat. I turn and look at her. She smiles, her eyes saying maybe she agrees with Walter.
Walter says nothing more, leaving me feeling disappointed and confused, going over his one statement carefully, trying to get some little smidgen of encouragement from it. But you can't do much with "I think you've finally gone off your nut." I'm sure most people would agree with Walter. From the standpoint of the norm, he's right. But I kind of thought he would be interested. Maybe understand, too.
As he drives through the North Queensland countryside I shift mental gears and play a mind game to lighten up my inner mood. The game is to see people as animals - vertebrates, mammals, primates, of the genus Homo. They are people on a superficial level, but are biologically apes. Apes, sitting inside little steel boxes, turning a big wheel to make the steel box go this way or that, and four rubber wheels that spin, carrying the apes to whatever odd destination is in store for them. Somewhat understandably I begin this process looking at Walter but then begin seeing apes driving the other cars on the road, too.
The apes did not build the steel boxes nor did they construct the road. A collective organism - mankind - built the cars and the roads and directs where and how the apes will go. Most of the apes I see in the steel boxes haven't a clue as to how to build a car or what makes it work. An individual ape could not build one. Even an automobile engineer could not do it alone. No indeed, steel traveling boxes are built by mankind in behavioral organs called factories. Factory organs have a wide-ranging network of behavioral arteries and conduits to circulate bits of metal, plastic, glass and rubber from other organs and eventually from the planet's crust. The flow of earth materials keeps the factory organs metabolizing. After the factories digest the materials, they defecate these little highly colored metal pellets called cars.
I peer into the windshields of the approaching cars and into the windows of those passing us. The apes inside are wrapped in vegetable materials - often brightly colored. Some grin, showing flat, omnivorous teeth. Some make fearsome aggressive faces at Walter as he is not an especially good driver at times. A red steel box zooms by crammed with a whole family of apes, the juveniles cavort excitedly in the rear of the box, the male sits tensely at the wheel directing the motion while the female sits next to him, on our side. She sees me looking at her and swivels her head forward quickly. They do not like to be observed. Social transgression alert.
Rudolph Steiner explicitly warned against doing this sort of thing. Observation of other people must be done under strict inner control and with multiple restrictions. I am violating Steiner's caution, but the hominids look really funny - with their briefly glimpsed tableaus of stylized social behavior in the rapidly moving little boxes along the petroleum covered path through the sugar cane coated hills.
Walter glances over, catches me with a big grin on my face, nods to himself as if confirming his diagnosis, and looks away again.
I quit my mind game, peeved at Walter.
There are many viewpoints from which we can look at reality, or at each other. An infinite number. He knows that. Our viewpoints can vary from ourselves as a person, an ape, a living planet, or even an aware cosmos. Viewpoints which, because of habitual biases in thinking, and social restrictions, are inaccessible most of the time.
My mind game was a way to change viewpoints. When I did, I glimpsed a series of mental regulators operating on the apes - and on myself. One regulator is an ape brain saying, "satisfy my needs, fulfill my instincts, my animal programs." This is an interior program of the organism. The other regulator is a social language control extruded from outside the organism, from society. It overlays the ape mind and alters its level of awareness to see something more than trees and forests.
Hominid minds float between the two regulator systems. The ape mind says eat, drink, sleep, breathe, sex. The language mind says investigate, go here, work with that person, get money, social position and power.
When we arrive at the wharf in Cairns, I come out of my thoughts but Walter is still busy with his. We get in his long-boat and head out to Moira. Walter is switched to worry mode. He worries about getting his ship imported into the country without paying a hefty duty, finding land for a base of operations, getting funds, and who knows what else. Walter has a lot on his mind.
I am not sure what I want to do yet.
I'm going to cut off Walter's balls.
Reinhard and Arlene come over early this morning for coffee.
"Hey, hey, hey, get a load of this!" Reinhard waves a magazine at me as he climbs aboard. "Hot off the press."
It is the July issue of Pacific Islands Monthly. On the cover is the photo I took of the Holy Mama in Paradise. The contents titles say, "The Solomons' Big Day" and "The Miracle Worker" and "Education at the Cross-Roads." The issue is dedicated to the Independence of the Solomon Islands. Having my photo of the Holy Mama on the cover and my article about him with a three page spread inside is a heart-soaring achievement.
"Man, this is great. Just great. God, I could kiss the editor for this." I look at my article. The editor has given it a long title. "Holy Mama, Solomons Prophet Built a Paradise For His People." It was one of three articles I wrote about the Holy Mama. I finally settled on this one because, like Silas Eto, it has no negative comments in it. It's just a nice story about the work of Holy Mama. The other two were medium and blistering attacks on the missionaries. This way is much better. Much better. The trap is set.
"Well, guys," Reinhard lifts his coffee cup in a toast, "We're gonna take off for Innisfail tomorrow. Arlene has got a job lined up and we met some friendly folks down there. We're kind of tired of Cairns, sooo."
"Yeah, we're going to sail up the coast to Port Douglas to paint Moira's bottom," I return his coffee-cup salute. "You wouldn't believe the bottom of this boat. Yesterday I cleaned off a real jungle."
"He even found baby lobsters living in it," Freddy uses her fingers to show how small they were. "Walter ate one."
"Our anchors are so buried I'm going to have to find a shovel to dig them out. Got any idea where I can borrow a shovel?" They shake their heads in unison. No idea.
"What happened to your foot?" Arlene examines the ugly mass of bright red scratches.
"Walter tried to eat it," I look around for him. "I told him I was going to cut his balls off."
"I'll give you a hand," Reinhard offers.
"Are you going to bite them off like the sheep farmer did to Kiki?" Freddy laughs.
"No, but I've got some pills to put him to sleep while Rick does the job." We are all quiet for a moment. Somehow we have gone from kidding to serious. I guess it has to be done sometime or Walter will become really impossible to live with. He is now a very large cat.
"Lets us go shopping," Arlene says to Freddy.
"OK, I don't want to be around."
"Walter has been getting meaner and meaner. We have to lock the little creep in the head when we have friends aboard." I try to get myself into the proper mood for balls cutting.
"Did David tell you what happened last week? He came over to visit wearing just a wraparound with nothing under it. While he was talking Walter came walking up and sat at his feet, looking up under his skirt." Freddy smiles with expectation.
"We didn't think anything of it," I inject.
"Walter looked up there and saw this little pink thing wiggling away as David talked. He couldn't resist. He leaped right up David's skirt, right between his legs, like this." Freddy makes little claw-hands and snatches in the air.
"You never saw anyone move so fast," I laugh. "He damn near had a heart attack."
"You know what Walter did to our cat?" Arlene scowls. "He taught Kiki to pee in the sink."
"How the hell did he do that?" I wonder. "We never had the head door open when Kiki was here, so Walter could not have shown Kiki how to piss in the sink. You think he told Kiki about it?"
"All I know is Kiki always used his box before. After your birthday party, he came back from here and promptly pissed in our sink." Arlene is not very happy about this.
"That's amazing," I shake my head, grinning.
"No, that's trouble," Arlene glares at me. "It may be OK for you guys if Walter pees in your head's sink but we have only one sink - the galley sink - and it's not OK if Kiki pees in there."
"They wash the dishes and their food in the galley sink," Freddy explains as if I'm too dense to understand that it's not OK if Kiki pisses in their galley sink.
"It so happens I was defrosting a roast in the sink when Kiki peed in it." Arlene looks aggressive. "And then Reinhard decided to punish Kiki and hit him. To get even Kiki used the middle of our bed the next day."
"Oh no, he peed in the middle of your bed?" Freddy tries not to laugh.
"No, worse. He did more than pee." Arlene lifts her eyes up and contemplates the fates.
"God, the stink! We can't get it out of the mattress." Reinhard groans.
After lunch we give Walter one of Reinhard's pills and when he seems out of it we wrap him up in a towel. Reinhard holds him steady on the dinette while I cut off his balls.
As we wash up I say, "I feel like a brain surgeon. We gave him a subanal lobotomy." We chortle but really I'm worried about the little monster. My first operation. I wish we could have taken him to a Vet but he is under bond not to leave the vessel for any reason.
I run Reinhard ashore and then return to Moira to baby-sit the cat and make more kaleidoscopes. There are 20 highly polished brass tubes lined up on the dinette. They are the latest and, I think, final Moirascope design. I've written a little booklet describing what these delightful mind-toys are all about.
The brass Dark Field Moirascopes are like dark field microscopes. With side-lighting, the bits of glass from antique bottles and the tiny sea shells take on a depth of color and brilliance not possible when looking at silhouettes through an ordinary kaleidoscope with its frosted end plate. I put pteropods, tiny sea shells, scaphopods, pea urchins, antique colored glass, and other bits and pieces of Sea into the action chamber and twist on the caps. I finish one and look through it. Great. I finish another and look through it. Fantastic. Each one is different. They have their own unique personalities even though they all get more or less the same kinds of objects in the action chamber. I have been working on finding the `ultimate' combination of pieces.
Now this one. This one is fabulous. The patterns it makes are delicate beyond belief. You just can't duplicate these images with pictures. They are an experience all to themselves. The new mirrors are sharp and clear; perfectly aligned. I can see the array of interlocked images vanishing off in all directions inside the tube. It's virtual image forms a big crystal sphere; a sphere floating in black space, it's surface constantly changing, shifting, in magical patterns.
My right eye gets tired so I shift the Moirascope to my left eye.
Wow! It seems to be different, like another kaleidoscope, to the left eye. For an undetermined time I am absorbed into the world of cascading imagery and then I shift the scope back to my right eye. Yes. It really seems different when I look at it through one eye then the other.
"Give it back," says Inner Voice. I keep on looking through the Moirascope with my right eye but a numbing realization clicks into my mind, like a kaleidoscope image - click and its there all in one piece.
"Give it BACK!" Voice insists.
It is as if a veil has vanished, revealing a whole new world of knowledge. A gateway, a portal into another universe.
"GIVE IT BACK!!!" Voice screams and a piercing headache splits my right temple. Voice is not fooling around. I quickly switch the Moirascope back to my left eye. The headache stops, Voice peers into the Moirascope.
Now I know. It is so clear, so simple, I can't imagine how I never suspected before. Inner Voice is the other hemisphere of my brain. The one neurologists insist is the silent hemisphere. Only mine is no longer so quiet.
Of course. I have two brains, two big cell cities, each with a population of some 5 billion little animals called neurons, linked by a narrow corpus callosum containing only about 250 million of their tentacles.
Each hemisphere does its own thinking. They communicate via a limited number of neural links, with each hemisphere an independent mind system
The one looking out of the right eye is me. Dr. Richard Chesher. Like a news commentator, I am the big name personality. I do the English Language Broadcasts. I'm the talker.
The other side, the one looking out of the left eye, is what I always thought of as The Unconscious. It does not talk simply because the language center is located in the other hemisphere. It produces poetry, music, and dreams. It links me to that whole sphere of communal being my "conscious" is only dimly aware of.
Unconscious is not the right word for the mind of the left hemisphere. Neither is the alternate term subconscious. We have no label for the mind I sense over there in the other hemisphere. That, itself is highly significant.
In deep states of meditation, the conscious mind links up with this other mind. Hypnosis slides the conscious mind in the left hemisphere into sleep and the hypnotist takes over the function of the blabbering conscious mind, giving instructions to the other hemisphere - and the right hemisphere carries them out, making people do things they otherwise could not or would not do.
My mind games work like that. I pass instructions to the other hemisphere on how to perceive reality and it provides the required shift to make the disk jockey see whatever is desired, such as apes driving cars.
I get up and pace back and forth, excited by the implications, and unafraid of a surprise attack because Waltercat is still wiped out. On impulse, I grab my trusty dictionary and open it unerringly to the word THINK. It says "for Indo-European base see Thank. Thank?
Under Thank I find, "IE base *tong-, to think, seen also in L. tongere, to know."
Two ideas sizzle between the hemispheres of my brain.
The first is the curious feeling of "impulse" that caused me to grab the dictionary to look up the origin of the word Think. This idea is richly colored by the knowledge that I had no idea what the origin was and the astonishing fact that I somehow managed to open the 1,720 page book to the page with the word Think on it.
The second idea is the link between the two words, think and thank. The meaning that "comes to mind" in my conscious mind is, "Thank you, Lord." As in the feeling of gratitude that comes with a revelation. My mind is swamped with the implications of this.
The revelation of the two minds in my own head - however I consider it - is exactly that, a revelation.
My physical reaction was to grab a dictionary that linked the ancient meaning of the word think with thank. As in, what: I am supposed to be thankful for the revelation? Or as in, this is another layer of instruction? Telling me that the process of thinking involves the exchange of ideas between the two hemispheres.
Originally, before the human language mind of consciousness evolved, when someone told us something we did not know, we were grateful for the thought; for the revelation. I'm thinking of the primitive society in which a father passes along the knowledge of how to make an arrow-head to his eldest son, and the feeling of awe and gratitude in the son's mind when the new concepts became part of his own knowing. We have polluted this gratitude by the sheer magnitude of information crammed into our beans in school. Not many kids fall down in gratitude to their teachers for imprinting their little neurons with a new idea. But a few thousand years ago, each new idea was passed along with great ceremony and caution.
I decide to call the right cerebral hemisphere "Lefty" because it controls the left side of my body. I, the conscious me, am "Righty." "Ok, Lefty," I say, "No more mysterious Inner Voice. I know where you are now." I go into the head and look into the mirror. I look at the left side of my face. I look into my left eye with my right eye.
I shift my attention, my awareness, to my left eye and look into my right eye in the mirror. There is a shift in background perspective. I shift back to the right. Then back again to the left. I don't think in words. I just move my awareness from one eye to the other and look deep into the clear black pupil of the opposite eye.
After a few minutes, when I shift, my awareness undergoes a marked change. The moment I try to think about it in words the shift clicks away from me and I resume the role of the commentator. But when I avoid thinking in words I am able to move my "self" to Lefty's viewpoint. I can isolate myself within the silent being I have always thought of as my unconscious. The unconscious becomes conscious.
The first thing I notice is, Lefty is crazy. This causes me to drop back into Righty's perspective pretty fast. But on shifting back again, the second thing I discover is, Lefty is supposed to be bonkers because Lefty is not responsible for reality testing. It dreams anything at all without restrictions of what is real or imaginary. Lefty uses Righty to test what is real. I am the practical reality tester. Lefty is the poetic dreamer.
People who get stuck in the left-side mind get locked up in funny-farms. People who get stuck completely in the right side mind are character actors who isolate themselves completely from their dreams. They are robots of civilization. A balance between the two brings the proper mix of intuition, dreams and imagination with the ability to carry out those dreams and ideas in the real world.
What a spooky feeling. I'm meeting someone who has been watching me for years. Someone who knows me in the most intimate way possible, but who is also a stranger. Lefty is a being I never even knew existed, but Lefty knows all about me. Even now, I know practically nothing about Lefty, and I think Lefty wants it just that way.
The experiment is unaccountably tiring. Belatedly, I realize Lefty is taking control of my body and actually redirecting blood away from my thinking centers. The dreaming, insane mind stumbles my body aft and flops down on the bed. I fight to gain control, to stay awake, to be aware, but Lefty effortlessly thrusts me into a deep, profound, dreamless sleep.
"Are you there?" Freddy's voice wakes me up. "I'm back." I get up and help her put the groceries down below. We stow the food and Freddy, after a brief inspection of Dr. Walter the Cat, goes off with Arlene again.
When she is gone, I start to put away the finished Moirascopes. I'm trying to remember something. Ahhh yes. Yes. Lefty/Righty. As I went to sleep, against my conscious will, I thought of something. Lefty takes over when I'm asleep or unconscious. It's a phase shift. When I wake, the analogue, dreaming mind shifts to the digital, calculating mind. The night-time mind balances relationships while the day-time mind checks details. Lefty knows all about this and I can suck some of this information out of it.
The pineal gland, the "Third Eye" of the mystics, actually does control the phase shift of awareness. The pineal gland began as a reptilian adaptation. The Tuatara lizard in New Zealand still has the primitive third eye in the middle of its forehead. The pineal gland is the only vertebrate gland that secretes a hormone on exposure to sunlight. When our ancestral reptiles lay out in the early morning sun the third eye generated a hormone, melanotin, causing the skin to darken. The hormone darkened reptile warmed up quickly in the sunlight and was ready to take off running sooner than its reptilian predators. Evolution moved the gland deeper into the skull and today it rests at the base of the brain, just next to the optic chiasma (the place where the optic nerves cross before threading into the big cerebral hemispheres.)
In the morning, when the sun comes up, the pineal gland switches on as sunlight filters through the eyelids and activates the optic nerves. The modern hormone, a chemical relative of melanotin, is serotonin. And this shifts awareness from the dreaming left side mind to the right side mind. Some of the modern designer drugs, like LSD, attach to the neural receptors for serotonin and force awareness to stay in the leftside mind - the non-reality testing mind - bringing hallucinations and other imaginative disorders.
When the system is functioning normally, serotonin from the pineal gland shifts awareness into the rightside mind in the morning and the conscious mind wakes up to become the ego of the waking body. During the shift, the conscious mind is briefly aware of the nocturnal dreams. If it does not make a sincere effort, however, the dreams are not piped through and Righty never even knows they exist.
The two hemispheres work together the same way the left and right hands work together. I put my two hands together and press. I can create pressure between the two hands. One works against the other but they achieve a multitude of my bilateral goals by their opposing force.
On a mental level, the leftside dreaming mind opposes the rightside practical mind and the pressures created between reality and dreams stimulate creative drives.
On a larger scale, in many societies, men and women pairs often echo the same process. The woman plays the role of Lefty the Dreamer and the man, Righty the Provider.
On a larger community scale, left wing factions are the revolutionary dreamers while the hard eyed practical right wingers are the conservative accountants of finance and war.
On a global scale, I see the planet divided into two hemispheres, a leftist, dreaming, impractical communistic hemisphere and a rightist, narrow minded, individually oriented hemisphere. The pressure points between these hemispheres drive the Hominids to astounding creative efforts - like rockets and hydrogen bombs and super sensitive ears which listen on all wave lengths, everywhere, all at once.
The right/left pattern of behavior walks awareness forward through the planet's evolution.
One hand washes the other but both hands wash the face. Lefty laughs at that, enjoying itself. Lefty wants to show me something.
"OK, Lefty, go ahead," I become the silent observer while Lefty walks my body over to the book case and takes out the dictionary again. Lefty flips the book open - without thumbing or fumbling or page turning - directly to a page. Flop. Lefty focuses my eyes immediately on the word Person. It is on the upper left corner of the left page. Lefty giggles, makes sure I take note of that - Upper Left, get it?
I don't think it's funny. In fact, I'm feeling a mixture of awe, irritation and jealousy. I've owned this dictionary since college. Whenever I go to use it, I have to paw through the 1720 tissue thin pages, hunting laboriously for a particular word. Twice today Lefty just flopped it open and nailed my eyes on the proper word in one motion. I can't get over this simple act. Finally, I focus on the definition Lefty wants me to read.
"Per.son n. [ME. & OFr. persone; L. persona, lit., face mask used by actors, hence a character, person] 1. a human being, especially as distinguished from a thing or lower animal; individual man, woman, or child: as, he is a kind person."
Per Sona. Through Sound. The hominid ape, masked by the sound of language. The disk jockey up there in the glass house broadcasting to the world completely unaware of how the radio station works, unaware of how the news he reads webs in through the greater system to become the words he speaks. The big ego playing a role, a character actor, a commentator, an announcer. That's me. OK, smart guy, Mr. Scientist, exactly how does the brain form a word? Any word at all? No idea.
Lefty wants me to notice something else. The change in meaning is not accidental. The mask covering a pink gorilla through which sound acts out a role in a drama has become, in modern vernacular, a human being. A curious, almost humorous play on word-use. Who is the director of this? How was the meaning of the word changed in precisely this way? Lefty thinks this is hysterically funny, but I don't know why.
I've known all this a long time. On one level, I've known Lefty all my life. But now, somehow, having lefty right there showing me this, it's different, more important, vital. Lefty can't (won't) speak except in poetic riddles and music. The puffed up jabbering announcer that is my conscious mind is too dumb - or maybe not allowed - to understand the real relationship between the two minds. Somehow my fiddling around with hypnosis, mind games, and Moirascopes has broken through this mental restriction.
I start to put down the dictionary and get another shock. It is now open to another page. I don't remember turning the pages back. Lefty directs my eyes down to the right hand page and I see "Per.ceive" Per, through + capere, to take. To take through.
OK, Lefty. I understand. My total body and brain receives input from all of reality. The light hits all the cells of my retina, my ears hear all sounds reaching them, my skin feels every tiny sensation. My nose smells everything all the time. But these sensory inputs are taken through a filter. And the filter is in Lefty's domain. The flood of raw data are perceived and the filtered version is presented to the commentator as a manuscript to read or comment upon. Got it. Right.
Lefty also points out the chance placement of Per.son on the upper left page of the dictionary and the chance placement of Per.ceive on the right page. A coincidence, but thinking about this seems to force me into a new, third kind of mind state. A blend of left and right mind floods over me.
I was wrong. Lefty is not Voice. Voice is something different. Voice lives here, in this third level of awareness, a harmonic of right and left minds interacting with some greater awareness outside of myself.
Everything is clear to this level of mind. I am again, briefly, on that mental mountain top I shared with Walter in the Solomon Island. I overlook a vista of understanding. The landscape overflows with relationships the conscious Commentator "I" never even imagined.
I hold up my hand and stare at it. "Who built this hand?", Voice demands. The answer is in the landscape of my fingers. "I did," the Commentator whispers. The being standing here, the total mind within me built this hand. The Announcer has absolutely no understanding of how this was done and does not remember doing it. But the total being which is me built this hand, this body, from a single fertilized egg. I did it. I built the hand, I maintain the hand, I operate the hand.
This is such a blazing truth I just stand there staring at my left hand, holding the heavy dictionary in the right and I start to laugh - it is not just me laughing, Lefty and I laugh together. Like brothers who have found themselves after being separated since birth.
"I'm glad you think it's funny," Freddy is in the cockpit, cuddling Walter who is still dopey. There is no more bleeding and although he will have a tender bottom for a few days he should be OK.
"I'm not laughing at Walter," I did not even hear her come aboard.
"What's so funny, then?" she looks down at me, glances at the dictionary.
"Just thinking about the three stooges," Inner Voice Groucho quips. Lefty and the Announcer chuckle, while Freddy looks confused. "I think maybe they were so successful because they reflect three characters inside all of us: the stupid, the silent, and the wise ass." the Announcer commentates. Lefty says nothing, as usual.
Freddy has gone to a Jewelry making class leaving me alone with Walter the cat and a variety of minor projects. There is a sailboat race - mostly of the lightning class - in the harbor today and Moira is one of the course markers. Each time one of the 18-foot boats comes streaking past, Walter races below and looks up the companionway as if the devil himself is passing by.
"What's the matter Walter?" I wonder why he's so afraid of them? As I sand away on the new hatch cover I'm making, I think about a group of aborigines I saw this morning in the small park next to the sport fishing wharf.
There were, I think, three women, a couple of kids, and four or five men. It was hard to tell because all but one of the men were asleep under the bushes in the park. The one who wasn't asleep was intent on drinking himself into oblivion.
Somehow, seeing them in the greenery highlighted the contrast between the aborigines and the Europeans walking past on the white cement sidewalk, headed for the supermarkets and shopping malls and the post office. The black face of the drunken man swiveled to point in my direction. His black eyes gave me a chilly feeling like there was an emptiness inside....
Another sailboat soars by, the teenagers laughing and jumping with delight to the other side of the boat as they comes about, some 10 meters astern of us. Walter vanishes in a puff of fluff.
The contrast between the "Aboriginals" and the "Aussies" comes into focus as the furiously concentrating youths manipulate their craft into the wind, hiking out to keep it from capsizing. Europeans look upon nature as something outside of themselves - a force to be tackled and beaten. Analytical, competitive, acquisitive, developing new ideas to accelerate the development of new ideas. To go faster, further, with change, itself, as the most important progress.
The men of the forest do not even have a word for progress. They respond and relate to the sum total of their environment. To the Aboriginals, nature was a sacred, larger part of their individual and collective selves. Nature was a living thing, and had powers and abilities beyond the awareness of the people - powers they could capture using certain rituals. The rituals focused the people's awareness on a static, unchanging world view. No progress possible.
I sand the hatch and watch the sailboats scare Walter. One after another 18-foot long racing sailboats (some worth over $10,000) tack astern of the Moira. Some pass to port, some to starboard. Walter and I are surrounded by them. Walter is curious about what I'm doing. He likes to help by watching every move. But whenever he comes cautiously out of the hatch, the kids come flapping by and he vanishes below again, looking over his shoulder with fear written all over his face.
Genetics must play a role in this difference. R.J. Forbes defined man as "A tinkerer, playing with ideas and mechanisms." He named mankind Homo faber. The main characteristic of H. faber is the absolute need to develop any new idea, regardless of consequences. It is not a thing H. faber consciously thinks about, but rather a compulsive, genetic behavior pattern. To think of an idea is to develop it.
But Mr. Forbes didn't see that drunk Coorie (which is, I am told the correct name for an Aboriginal Australian) in the park this morning. They and many other kinds of people on the planet don't have that compulsive behavior pattern for progress. Does this mean Homo faber and Homo sapiens might be different species? I snort, that was an unpopular idea back in Hitler's day. I put down the sanding block and change the sandpaper. It is a beautiful day and the sailboats are now little specks of color notching the green mangroves on the other side of the harbor.
I begin to sand again, and Walter is back topside watching. I am creating my own paradox with this genetic versus cultural business. After all, each individual inherits both. Both are passed down from generation to generation. The cultural genes are really not so different from the DNA genes. One operates in a community of cells and the other in a community of individual multicellular animals.
I go below to get out of the sun and have a cold glass of water. New ideas are kind of like biological mutations in the superorganism of mankind. Each new idea is a reordering of the neural tissue of collective man - a new kind of synapse. I stare at the empty glass realizing there is something important in this concept. Neurons really do make new synapses new tentacles, when the brain processes new ideas. These neuronal connections form a physical network, pathways of communications, in the brain. The new pathways create new behavioral modes and lock these into young minds.
This all important process is most active during infancy, when the young mind/body is learning how to apply its genetic prototype to environmental pressures.
Back to work. The racers are now running downwind, going slower, their progress tipsier in the flat-bottomed skiffs. The hatch cover is looking good. I try it on over the sliding companionway hatch and it fits fine. Just a little more sanding on the smooth part and a coat of paint.
Maybe the main mutation separating Homo faber from the other cells of man was the one which transferred his focus from the world of nature to the second world of language and technology. DNA genetic material may influence how H. faber will react, but the environment he will react to is taught to him by his society.
Yes. Like a cell in a body, H. faber has the same genetic code as all the other cells of mankind but the code is read differently than it is in cells located in other parts and positions of the body of mankind.
This is somehow more complex and yet simpler than the "genes vs environment" paradox because it has to do with the embryological development of populations of cells. If one cell is cut free from a frog embryo when it is at the four cell stage, it and the remaining three cells will both develop into two normal frogs. Take a cell from an embryo which is a few hours old, with maybe 64 cells, and place it in a different position within the same mulberry shaped embryo and it will develop into a perfectly normal frog.
After a certain point in development, some sort of molecular switch activates. A cell cut out from the embryo after the switch is thrown will continue to become whatever it would have been if left alone. After this point in development, if a nerve cell is removed from an embryonic mass and put back with cells which are muscle tissue, it will still develop into a nerve cell. Past a certain point in cell development, a proto-frog-eye cell placed anywhere in the community of frog cells develops will form a third eye, even though it is in a new environment. Even though it has exactly the same DNA as all the other cells. I've seen photographs of three-eyed frogs, the third eye parked right in the middle of their heads looking perfectly normal in every respect. I wonder what kind of a world-view three-eyed frogs have?
The hatch cover is complete except for the paint. The work has gone quickly. I wander below to wash up and as I dry my hands, I catch myself looking at myself in the mirror. I study the face critically, wondering what it would look like with a third eye parked in the middle of the forehead. Then I notice something wrong - odd about my face. Christ, it looks OLD! I am looking at an older man. Myself, but perhaps 50 years old.
The illusion is fantastically real and I hold still, looking at the older face, trying not to "force" whatever is happening. I allow myself to drop into a hypnotic waiting awareness, just observing. My stomach drops back down to its normal position and I breathe normally again.
The instant I do this, the illusion speaks.
"I of now, I am your son. I am you, tomorrow. Though I seem older, look as you think older looks, I am not your father. I am your son, more modern than you of now.
"I am the product of your ambitions, the result of your desires. I am the result of you, you caused me."
The image smiles at me and I sense a wealth of thought in that smile. With a laugh in its voice the older man says, "The youngest of you and I is the wisest. Keep in touch."
My normal face looks back at me out of the mirror, smiling but not the same kind of smile the older face had. I close my eyes and peer inside my mind just in time to see faint wisps of gossamer threads retreating over the horizons of time.
Now what the hell was all that about? Inner Voice must have done it to demonstrate something. But what? All this thinking about behavioral genetics of Homo sapiens and Homo faber and third eyes of frogs must tie together somehow. But how?
The instant I ask the question, the word destiny pops up on my inner screen. This lesson has been about how the process of individual destiny gets fixed, whether the individual is a species evolving over millions of years, a cell undergoing development, or a person, like me, growing older. Behavior leads individuals along certain paths. At each step, the individual is guided by every previous step. Sometimes, one steps beyond a certain boundary and there can be no turning back. Because.... here is the critical part... because. Damn. I can see it but not say it.
This is really important.
I can think of examples. A man has lots of things he can do with his life. Lets say he manages to get elected President of the United States. Once he is elected, he passes a critical point. He can no longer do whatever he wants. Because the whole population of people on the planet have certain expectations and demands to make of the hominid in his behavioral position.
Or, it's like how the people of the Solomons give Holy Mama charisma. It is the interaction between Silas Eto and the whole society which creates the spiritual power guiding their cultural development. And this, in turn, guides the future actions and words of Silas Eto.
Or, like that third eye. A cell can develop into almost any part of a frog. Once the "I'm an eye" internal molecular switch is thrown, however, the rest of the cell-population recognizes that particular cell as a proto-eye and responds accordingly, hooking up nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and FORCING an environment in which the eye cell MUST become an eye.
What I want to say, but can't seem to get down correctly, has to do with this interaction. The critical interaction between the individual and the population to which it belongs. Here is a key to destiny. Here is the key to understanding how evolution works. But I have no mental model to apply, no words to express it, no logic system to explain it. Feedback, cybernetics, dynamic interaction, none of these terms or concepts work. Because it has to do with purposeful awareness. It is a function of mind, not engineering.
"I'm back," Freddy calls. Walter scrambles up the companionway to greet her. Confused and angry with myself for not being able to pin this idea down, I follow Walter onto Moira's deck.