Tuesday, October 6, 2009

188/278 - Brain in a vat.

Sunday Off
Monday 4:30 with Janna

Monday's class was fairly ordinary, but it was so much better than Friday that it seemed a triumph. Class was hot, humid, and fairly quick paced. I was determined to make it through Triangle, and I did, but had to bow out right afterward.

On the floor it seemed to get hotter, and I started to fall a bit behind the dialogue. That's been happening more and more recently. I fell into the habit, I think, with my knee problem. And now I have to fall out of the habit, because I don't really have an excuse anymore.

It was nice and satisfying to have a thoroughly ordinary class, without any extreme ups or downs.

Since Descartes, western philosophy has obsessed over the split between mind and body. My second semester in philosophy was basically a survey on the subject. Later in school, I took a class called Minds, Brains, and Bodies. We spent much time discussing the brain in a vat problem. (Suppose a brain in a vat got wired up so that it could experience everything that we experience. Now, how do you know that you aren't such a brain. I guess this is the precursor to the Matrix movies.)

Descartes himself spent a great deal of time wondering how the mind and body were connected. He thought the connection was in the pineal gland, which is not a bad guess. No-one knows what the pineal gland does, even today. (Even though we don't know what it does, I'll bet one of the 26 poses is designed to stimulate it, probably Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee).

The day 263 question answers this problem of connection in a very practical way. The breath is the connection between mind and body. Of course, yoga rejects the whole concept of dualism in the first place, so it doesn't really need to answer the "problem," since there simply is no such problem. But even so, it seems typical of yoga to have a concise and practical answer to such a problem. And furthermore, its an answer that you can actually do something with, even if you are just a brain in a vat.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

This reminds me of something one of my teachers said once that has stuck with me. In savasana, she said something along the lines of - in Western civilization, we are all attached to the idea of "I think; therefore, I am." However, if you stop thinking, you will still exist. So, in savasana, trust that if you just let your body relax and turn off your thoughts, you will continue to be.