Friday, 9 October 2009

I lost my mind. Again. Alfred, a new mask.

Where is my mind? Probably the best article about that is Where I am, from Dan Dennet (one the best philosopher in town), with a rigorous reasoning and a funny wit: a good sci-fi story, with strong foundations. A part from the philosophical issues, where is you, in the majority of situations is where is your living brain. There are small exceptions . After your death, your legacy can be transmitted (say, with a book).It’s not you as a whole, but traces, sometimes important of your mind, of your reasoning, can survive the death of your brain. A second situation is when you notice someone damaged your favorite car . In this case it’s not “you” affected. Still your mind can suffer as if affected. You extended your mind to a thing.

Alles klar? If we are convinced a mind is a individualistic device, complex but a unit, yes, we’re done. Unfortunately this is simplistic. The concept of a single mind, the “I”, a single item, with maybe fading boundaries, but a clear identity, is not a good concept. It’s very useful : you can address bills to someone in a unambiguous way. It’s rational: you can ask and give commitments. In general there are good reasons why it’s good to ascribe a unit to the concept of mind. Still, this is far from being a good description of this cognitive environment.
Your mind is not milked from your brain (well, there are very strong relations, of course). It’s a process of reciprocal manipulation from environment to you and vice versa: your environment shapes you, you digest this manufacturing and design some modifications to your environment: a reciprocal re-programming.

Fantastic, now we are able to be really in control. We just need to re-programming our environment as we wish. Easy, isn’t it? Mmmmmmm. Well, y-yes. It’s what we do: re-programming our environment. The problem is : “as we wish”. The process of re-programming is a narrative. Our environment in order to shape us, tell us a story: this is a dynamic blueprint. It’s living, it’s a living story. We digest this narration, but we don’t digest the story: we are the story! The story (i.e.: Us!) becomes able to narrate. The story tells a story. But these are not “just words” (thank you Barack, my favorite speech!), these are our lives, our feelings, our emotions, our loves, our battles. The story-tells-a-story is the environmental re-programming that builds roads, houses, satellites, etc. etc. To act, to make a difference, (at least in our cultures), you need to be an “I”. You need to be a character. That’s why the environment shapes a mask, permitting you to play a role. The mask is not an disguise: without you’d be faceless. We are characters on stage, without a mask, we’d be speechless ghosts. So a mask, it’s fine. The problem is, our environment is bigger than intentions. Your family, is an environment. Your parents could have intentions (maybe contradictory, but it’s ok..). But also situations are environment. Also discipline, tension, pressure, obstacles are environment: all this forces are environment. And they don’t have intentions. We meet a lot of actors dealing with us, but the environment is more than the actors. The multiple forms of the environment gives us the art of masking (of masking the speechless faceless with a character). And we start to possess many, many masks. We change them, sometimes. But we have the masking art. We can build a new mask. We can modify the old one. We age. We change.
Everyone in few years (20?30?) is in possess of several masks. When you know who you are, you decided your mask. Good. There is no reason the other masks will leave you. There is no reason the other masks will wait for you either. Is it good to have only one? Is it funny to change constantly many? Just a matter of tastes. I personally quite enjoy the mindshake. It’s a funny exercise and very interesting. Do you remember Fight club? Or Nikolay Stavrogin? It’s a classic in art to shake minds. Think to “La Vida es sueno”( Life is a Dream) of Calderon de la Barca or Pirandello So It Is (If You Think So) or Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Mindshake is a good way to complicate your days (and nights…). Where is my mind, after a mindshake? The good news is that if you get lost (if you lose your mind), just remember where are the other, disposable minds. The bad news is that when you lose your mind, you tend to be annoyed by the masking art… Are we safer with the masking art? Or more in peril?
Shake, shake, shake

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