Daily Archives: August 11, 2011

8.11.11 A Princess, A Thinker, & Strange Bodies

In the 1640s, a young Bohemian princess politely challenged one of the most prominent thinkers of the time, Rene Descartes. Descartes had published his Principles of Philosophy that made his claims about the mind’s separation from the body and the mind’s ability to influence the body. The body, this fleshy sheath of blood and guts and bones, he argued, had no possible influence on the mind.

The princess protested. Raised in a turbulent household and often given to illnesses and maladies, she sent him lengthy letters asking how that separation could be. The letters include detailed self-analyses of how when her body grows ill, her mind becomes tormented.

The thinker (impressed with the princess’s nuanced grasp of his ideas) tried to satisfy her queries, and they would develop a friendship for the rest of Descartes’ life. But his answers never satisfied her – and, as he confessed in other letters, never to his own satisfaction.

I think of that princess on days like today when it feels as if furry fungi have climbed up my nose and send my body into daylong sneezing fits. Even during riveting client meetings today while my mind focused on topics such as future worlds and creative transformation, my body sneezed and sniffed. It felt as if my mind armored itself against the body’s influence – although the influence could not be denied.

A walk around the pond helped quiet things down. Standing and stretching helped. A piece of peanut butter toast – well, that was delicious.

Sir John Eccles and Daniel Robinson wrote a book some years ago called The Wonder of Being Human. Its sub-title is Our Brain & Our Mind. But I would add Our Body. It is, after all, the perennial elephant in the room that no one much acknowledges and many people are often embarrassed to discuss. Perhaps it is the form the human mind must take, a form that indeed influences and shapes the very ways we make meaning and find highlights in a day. In a world in which cognitive scientists now talk about “the embodied mind” and social psychologists investigate “embodied emotions,” Descartes would have colleagues today who would help him answer Princess Elizabeth’s queries.

What about you? Did you notice your body today? Did it play a part in your three highlights? Regardless, share your day’s three highlights below – and let us know where you’re writing from.

See you in the woods,
The Three Highlights Guy