Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Body Politic: Physiology and The Election

Imagine if your body had a vote in this upcoming election. By body, I’m not talking about the pattern of ideas your cerebral cortex says is who you are. I’m speaking about the organs, bones, nerves, muscles, and cellular you. What would it be looking for in a candidate or in a political platform?

It’s not such an odd question. People vote, they say, for emotional reasons, for financial reasons, for philosophical or intellectual reasons, for religious reasons, why can’t they vote for physiological reasons?

So I did a little meditation to quiet down my brain to keep it from butting in while I listened:

“Well, the first thing we do in looking for a candidate is listen to their voice to feel if they are sincere. It’s not difficult. The second thing is to just look at their body. Is it taken care of? Do they feel comfortable in their own skin? We can feel if someone is uptight or unhappy.”

So, who’s body then do you trust?

“Oh, it’s obvious, Obama’s body. His eyes are serene. He smiles sometimes with his legs and arms and looks kind of goofy and childlike. His body is warmer around his children. McCain laughs a lot at himself, and when he does, you can feel his truer body. It’s been through a lot. McCain got tortured. It’s written all over his body. He’s angry. Angry at something he can’t change. Obama sometimes looks up and out and away from his body; I wish he’d look down and in it more. They both trust their heads more than their bodies.”

What else do you look for?

“Look, we don’t ask for much, we just need food, good food, clean water, clean air, you know, the basics. We do best when we have food in our stomach, have warm clothes, a roof over our heads. Environments matter a lot to our well-being. It’s simple.”

The environment, then, matters?

Life or death depends on it. I’m just a body but most plants and animals work this out or adapt or move off to where they can get it. We’re the same. We learned everything from them.”

So, you’re worried about the environment?

“Yes. It’s out of balance. We don’t like to be worried, it’s a waste of our time. Anxiety causes a lot of trouble for us. We lose the feel for what’s best for us. We over react, one problem gets worse because our wonderful brain just obsesses about these things and sends all kinds of signals, day and night, that something is wrong. It’s so chaotic. We like for things to be predictable, secure. Everything functions best when we are happy and not worried. See, we seek balance in every function. It’s our nature.”

So, then you’re more interested in conservative oriented politics and candidates?

“Yes, we want security in all things. We love ritual. We like to eat everyday at about the same time. We like to exercise and sleep regularly. We don’t like to live in fear, it’s taxing, stressful.”

So, you’re not so much for change then.

“Who said that? We love change. We thrive on change.”

Wait. You want things to be predictable but you love change. You can’t have it both ways.

“Why not? Look, life is change, every second we got change going on inside and out. What we’re seeking is balance. We want to make it as easy as possible to breathe, to digest, to perceive, etc. We know we have to change and adapt every minute to survive. We have an innate creative drive, so we are always seeking a better way to respond and adapt, but if it doesn’t work we stay with what we have. We’ve been this way a long time. We just want to survive.”

It sounds like you’re interested primarily in yourself, like you follow the theory of survival of the fittest?

“Theory? We don’t live by theories. The brain likes theories. And we humor it by paying attention to its ideas for a while, but we live by feeling and observing. If we see other bodies adapting better than we are, we mimic them the best we can. We’re animals, we depend on each other. If we didn’t, we would die. Adapting is how we survive. It’s really what you call creativity, and this is where we really depend on our brain to do its job. It’s very good at figuring out how to adapt if we let it practice. The only problem is, we also feel when other bodies are not adapting or are trapped. It’s painful to watch. We haven’t figured out how to deal with this very well. Worry kicks in. Sometimes we must drop what we are doing and help. Sometimes we can’t do anything. Sometimes we have to shut down for a while until all of this suffering and helplessness passes through. There’s nothing else to do.”

This dialogue might sound cute and innocent. But, think about it. Human physiology is not a mystery to us in the 21st century. The human body is miraculously well designed, with levels of intelligence that are only now with neuroscience being discovered. We know what generates and sustains health. We know what causes damage and injury, physically and psychologically. It’s mind-bogglingly simple. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that we can put so much faith and money into science and technology and then ignore the wisdom it reveals to us?

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