Wednesday, December 02, 2015







In the beginning there was nothing but environment.  Then tiny structures began to form which were only boundaries around part of the environment so that they could create their independence and get more complex.  Because they were separate, they had to create ways get their nutrients from the environment which at first were simply matters of osmosis, just soaking it through their boundary wall.  But they couldn’t use everything that got in, so to keep from getting too full they began to also push the leftovers back out.

As time went on, the little one-celled self-creations invented meiosis, which was swapping half of their nuclear directions with another one-celled creature.  Then things moved along a little faster.  But there was still only one cell, though it could do two things: take in nutrients/push out leftovers.  It was floating in water, streaming the environment through itself, dependent on currents to get around.  

Even before it evolved some way of propelling itself, it needed two sentient awarenesses: sensitivity to where nutrients were so as to move towards them, and sensitivity to danger.  Both were dependent on perceiving molecular signals in the water where the creature floated and swam.  This is the origin of neurology, knowing what to approach and what to avoid and having the ability to oppose the forces of the environment that might swirl them towards or apart.  It was choice.  You could call it a sort of miniature free-will, which made it a sentient creature instead of a blob. 

Things kept evolving, sometimes getting nearly wiped out by forces beyond the abilities of ingesting, excreting, and moving around.  Sometimes there was only a partial wipe-out, either because of luck or because of having some anomaly of structure that was an advantage: a shell, faster propulsion, fewer leftovers because of efficient use.  Basically, it was all about survival:  those who were a little better able to survive went on through time and those who didn’t cope very well or were subjected to a new environment which they weren’t suited to, just died out.  We call this “survival of the fittest” which humans almost always define as the strongest or the smartest.   Not necessarily. 

Generations are formed by generating new beings which respond to the passage of time -- which means the changing of the environment driven by huge planetary forces or maybe just something local.  The ability to generate new generations is part of survival, which proceeds by survival of both individuals and groups.

Today we -- who are creatures who evolved from all of creaturedom by making ourselves into cooperating groups of one-celled animals -- have developed a lot of specialized subgroups called “organs” and now we are “organisms.”  We still have skins around the cells but also skins around the whole being.  We still take in and throw out substances from the environment, both through the skin and through a tube from the mouth to the anus.  Food and leftovers travel through us in this tube, our GI tract.  They are moved through the cells by circulation of blood and lymph, an internal sea that has captured some of the old ocean.  If that internal sea is drained out, the creature dies because the constituent cells still operate by osmosis.

But the creature still needs to take in, throw out, and avoid danger.  This is the origin of the neural in-skin intra-communication center as well as the neural out-skin awarenesses and movement in the out-skin world, the ability to respond to the environment.  Now there is so much coded information being sent along the neural network that a dashboard develops in the skull of the creature.  The network is of two kinds, according to what it monitors:  that which responds to the environment and a new system made necessary for the management of the in-skin.

Homeostasis is the process of keeping operations within the limits that will support life.  It is the basis of the thermostat on the wall that keeps a room at a livable temperature and in fact, body temp is one of the things that the in-skin monitoring system keeps track of.  98.6º, give or take a degree.  Warmer than that is a fever.  If fevers go much over 100º, they do damage.  If body temp drops too low, one is hypothermic.  Both variations can cause malfunction and then death.

Mammals are capable of controlling their body temperature, but only within narrow limits.  Beyond the automated, self-governing systems the creature must become uncomfortable enough to move into the sun or deeper into shade.  This is feeling.  It is part of being sentient but it might not be conscious.  The creature might not realize that it’s adjusting in order to feel better, to avoid discomfort.  

When self-awareness finally developed, because it can manage whether our sentience can be moved from unconscious to conscious.  Not just for the purpose of sleep, when systems are shut down, but also awareness of problems of other kinds..  It made us far more efficient because the brain dashboard can only handle about seven different concepts at once.  To keep the platform cleared, once the body has learned and resolved awareness into habits, it is unconscious of the problem that has returned to normal.  But if something can’t be dealt with by habit, it will return to consciousness, returning to the working platform. Bothering.

The working platform is where we figure out what changes can be made to the environment: build some shade, start a fire, put on a sweater.  If something can’t be resolved, particularly when it involves relations among creatures, matters of group survival, it can either provoke “acting out,” in an attempt to bring in some kind of outside reaction that will yield more information or at least jar the situation loose, or it can just freeze, repress, delay, push it out of consciousness and limp ahead without any fix.  This is more often good for group survival than for individual survival.  

But if all the individuals are gone, there is no group.  Even the collaborating cells of the body know that and know they can only survive only if the whole in-skin world is surviving.  It is in the best interests of groups to preserve and improve their members.

Consciousness is what governs homeostasis, which is what keeps the creature alive so that a whole species of creature, organized into interwoven communities and environments, can maintain its bit of the ecology.  That is our word for the whole set of relationships that forms a kind of ur-creature (both living animals and plants, and the mineral world) but one without consciousness of itself sufficient to manage homeostasis.  Ways form to take in what’s needed and eliminate what’s leftover without gradually eroding the whole for the benefit of the parts.

But “feelings,” the same awarenesses and love of sensations that keep humans alive as individuals and groups, can be applied to the environment so that we “feel” good about harmonious and familiar things and bad about disruptive, diminishing, painful things.  Right now we are feeling pretty bad, because we have failed to manage things we weren’t consciously aware of.  We hid from ourselves the damage of fossil fuels, human created chemical molecules, radioactivity, and just simple overpopulation.  So now we have become conscious of them, but our group managing platforms (government and religions) are not keeping up.   They're stuck, quarreling. We’re pushing so many individuals off into confinement, exploitation and disease that the whole platform is endangered.  This means effort to control the deranged sub-platform behaviors and to create alternative opportunities for the seething mass of creatures that prey on us.  Predation and parasitism are effective strategies until they kill the ecology.  Then all the creatures die.  And it feels pretty bad.


Lesion research is removing something from the body to see what the consequences are, in hopes of using the evidence to understand what the “something” does.  Normally, we say we never perform such surgeries on human beings, unless we are Dr. Mengele using what he considered sub-humans: Jews, gypsies, gays, the retarded and so on.  But surgical removal of the uterus or the male foreskin is near-experimental in some cultural circumstances, and yet widespread.  Other lesions (wounds) are accidental and present opportunities to study what has been destroyed in human beings without surgery.

A popular surgical intervention in human beings, experimental in many cases, was called lobotomy, the severing of the frontal lobe of the forebrain.  It was imposed mostly on women or the insane, recently enough that Rosemary Kennedy was tortured this way.  The idea was that their troubling “ideas” (bad feelings) were in that place -- now considered the location of the working thought platform -- and they would relax if they were inaccessible.  What actually disappeared was self-control, ability to predict, reflection, cultural taboos, and other things -- the same things that people lose when they have forehead concussions, as when playing football.  They did NOT lose what we call “consciousness.”

When perfectly rational (in cultural terms) people begin to reflect about this subject called “consciousness,” they didn’t think about lobotomies because it is a painful subject and when things are painful, we avoid them.  It didn’t occur to them that people with lobotomies did NOT go “unconscious” but rather were unrestrained and unreflective.  When the scientists began to try to find an “organ of consciousness” in humans and couldn’t find one, they went back to experiments on cats and started taking out parts of their brains.  

They started at the front, because in our culture “consciousness” is supposed to be “rational” and we now located that behind the forehead.  But they went farther and farther back in the brain -- not left-brain/right-brain but in what was the add-on order of evolution.  It wasn’t until they got to the brain stem close to the connection to the spine that the cats went UNconscious.  That doesn’t mean they fell asleep, because if the main brainstem was spared, they followed the normal sleep patterns, nor did they go comatose or zombie-like, staring at nothing.  Instead they became very anxious and active, trying to turn their consciousness back on, to regain the “stream of consciousness.”  They couldn’t guide themselves, but they craved the information that had been provided by their in-skin and out-skin awareness.

This is the state that solitary confinement imposes.  It is an effective form of torture.  We now know, but haven’t really assimilated, is that what we call “consciousness” is located at the top of the brain stem.    I has nothing to do with rationality.  It is a process, NOT an organ.

Mark Holms is one of dozens of scientists who have been exploring this for the past decades, a little frustrated because we are still so dominated by 19th century ideas about the mind.  And even more resistant when we realize what the implications are. Even the experts of the mind, at least the workings of it, like psychoanalysts or reflective philosophers, are most resistant because they have learned systems which assume things that are vital to their vocations.  They will lose status, dominance, and wealth if they turn out to be little more than charlatans, discredited by a paradigm shift.

Holms has been a Freudian and has carefully reconciled that system with the new research.  The main realization is that feelings -- which the 19th century insisted had to be controlled, denied, and subjected to rational, near-mathematical science -- are actually the process of consciousness.  It is not an organ, but a process of sorting sensations between what is vital to homeostasis and what is not, between in-skin and out-skin.  One after another, we’ve located pain, addiction, attachment, and so on in the brain, NOT in the sensations reported from the two nervous systems (one for taste, sight, sound, smell, et al and the other for the state of the in-skin) that constitute our reality, each of us in our own reality.  

Our next mistake is thinking that the brain is only the organ in our skull.  Rather “the brain” is  the entire body, the whole complex of neurological reporting, sorting, and acting.  If the sorting platform doesn’t believe that something is true and discards it, that person’s reality will not include it.  If the sorting platform is saying something IS true, it is, as far as that person is concerned.  This principle arrived partly through research to relieve phantom pain after amputation, partly through study of PTSD. 

Much of the in-skin reporting is unconscious physical homeostasis regulating hydration, blood sugar, digestion, heart beat, breathing and the like.  These things are not usually accessible without a laboratory capable of analyzing molecules, though much of it is in the autonomic nervous system.  This means we must consciously control exercise, drinking, eating, and so on.  Using a little exterior monitor to read blood sugar means that one can bring it to “consciousness” and act on the information to maintain homeostasis.

Cultural homeostasis is a real process: the elimination of whatever threatens the system as it is, the addition of compensations for that threat.  (We're trying to figure out mass shootings.  Two of them today.)  As in the body, if the wrong things are strengthened and the right things are undermined, the consequences will be death, cultural rot and imploding destruction.  It’s a kind of auto-immunity in which that which is meant to protect becomes a danger in itself, destroying all the wrong things.  Like Jews, gypsies, gays, the retarded, the avant garde, progressives, heretics or any other minority that can be stigmatized.  Then the culture sets about destroying them, kind of half-consciously, letting their diseases and poverty do the auto-destruction by withdrawing support and eliminating the basic needs of humans, like food and shelter.

Lately, our culture has begun to hate boys, pushing them out of families, shooting them on the streets, pushing them to be cannon fodder, forcing those who are rebellious out of the schools.  Incarcerating any caught using drugs or condoms.  Crusaders are desperate to raise consciousness about this.   Ironically, at the same time we push boys to succeed, to be brilliant, special, reflecting well on their families.

There is another challenge to homeostasis, the 2% who are ultra wealthy.  They have been able to form a membrane around themselves by controlling the government and therefore the laws meant to protect the whole, now giving themselves an in-skin advantage over other people.  Part of the trouble is that they take in so much, and what they throw out is other humans.  They are like gated communities who forget they are dependent on the infrastructure provided by other people and the land itself.  They constrict until they self-snuff, doing great damage to the whole world.

Others try to make a membrane around themselves by going “off the grid,” so that their infrastructure is either made by their own efforts on the land or by the natural “stream of consciousness” of their own interrelated selves.  Religious groups spontaneously try to do this and in the Seventies many simply “different” people tried communally to return to the first villages of human beings millennia ago.  They cannot provide something like the Internet, space travel, opera or other fabulous constructions that require many people of many kinds, but they can be tribes and families, joined by feelings.

Being rational is not enough.  The feelings that are necessary to sustain cultural homeostasis are present in our literature and interactions as “compassion.”  Our worship of rationality has reduced this to mawkish sentimentality or simple numbness.  The result has been zombies craving drugs or rage and rebellion, both illustrated vividly in our stories and poems, our terrorists and our dictators.  It is the kind of result that forces us to act or die.  AS A CULTURE.


Parallel and entwined with the physical homeostasis of a person (homeostasis not having anything at all to do with being gay, just the prefix referring to sameness) is emotional homeostasis, that is, the management of the basic needs that form in the womb, in infancy, and in babyhood.  The basics before birth are dependent on the well-being of the mother.  The ones after birth begin with the basics of food and shelter and expand into whatever space the culture will give them, often differentiating between girls and boys.  This has nothing to do with genitalia or the object of desire, but is about “what girls do” and “what boys do,” or what Americans or cowboys do.  There will be pressure and suggestion from the adults.  Gently, as a Hopi elder saying,  “That’s not the Hopi way,” or violently, “I’ll beat the homosexuality out of you!”  Nowadays kids don't get much attention.

If there is confusion, emptiness, contradictions, forces that work against one’s physical nature, then the creature will be unhappy and the unhappiness will show, if only by noncompliance or freezing up.  Quite apart from such majorly dysfunctional contexts as drug houses or extreme poverty, it’s possible to compensate by comforting.  The baby also makes judgments about life -- what it’s about, how it works.  These might be accurate and true, or they might be quite wrong, or they might need serious adjustment if the environment changes.

At this point the changes are in the “sea within,” the molecules that the body’s organs secrete, as they try to adjust to the miserableness.  These are managed by “pathways” based on various interactions: serotonin loop, dopamine loop, or whatever.  They can’t be seen except by molecular analysis, but they can be felt as emotional changes.  In our times, with so many drugs available and people so willing to use them, the mixing of emotion, hormones and other molecules, can seriously interfere with the basic physiological homeostasis of the creature.  Excessive, sustained, habitual, mixed substances, either produced by extreme emotion or by ingesting or injecting substances, or maybe through trauma, can mean it will take a long time for the body to sort out what it’s supposed to do, let alone the thinking and emotional aspects of doing it.  

It’s hard to push a string, but you can pull one.  A kid with a goal will be willing to risk and motivated to try to give up old ideas and take a look at new ones that seem very strange at first.  His feelings may be all out of kilter so they tell him he will punished, destroyed, killed, if he even considers disclosure, cross-dressing, or falling in love with the wrong person.  Recovery will have to fight that.  A community of people with the same affinities is vital, but also someone experienced who understands what’s going on in him.  Emotions respond to other people with whom they have empathy.  Empathy expands one person’s evidence into a whole realm of sharing, and demonstrates what it is like to be in a new way.

For a while now we’ve understood how vital metaphor is to managing concepts.  It is a large part (if not all) of how the “sorting platform” of the brain operates, since it is a way of “bundling” ideas into one vivid image.  This is art.  Art IS thinking, IS using the sorting platform of the brain, IS a way to grow.  Art engages all the sensory equipment, including the ones we’re just finding a cell at a time, it FEELS GOOD which is the reward system of the "unconscious conscious", as Mark Solms renames it.  Feeling is a trustworthy guide to homeostasis, a way of identifying and coming to peace with something morally incomprehensible.  If that makes you think of a room of combat veterans all fingerpainting on huge rolls of papers, I think you get the idea.

It’s very hard to want peace or love or success without getting a taste of it and TASTE is the right word.  Boys have enormous energy and DANCE is the word for shaping it.  Boys have seeking eyes evolved for hunting, great for PAINTING.  Boys can listen and make noise -- call it MUSIC.

In my experience, boys during adrenarche and adolescence are so hormonally vulnerable that they need protection, meaning confidence and love.  That’s why they are vulnerable to pedophiles or street tricks trying to take advantage or altar boys at the mercy of priests.  There are no cultural prohibitions about violence against boys -- man up!  Don’t be a wimp!  Give as good as you get!  An aversion to violence is not being weak -- it’s being smart.  So why are “solid” male citizens in little Montana towns organizing semi-secret extreme fighting between admired boys for the purpose of betting?  In Great Falls, Montana, cage fighting is quite open and admired.  And violence is linked to sex through arousal.  Arousal is all systems GO.  Do that enough and the whole body is depleted.


Everyone.  The boy, the therapist, the other boys, every boy on the planet.  Anyone who knows a boy or loves a boy.  This is where the metaphors about little drops of water and little grains of sand come in.  Drop by drop, bit by bit.  Pretty soon a beach.  If all humans were at or near their own homeostasis, enormous energy that now goes to struggling could go to creative inspiration instead.  The benefit to the culture would be major.

Since boys have enormous energy and creative powers, once the homeostasis begins to work and they know how it feels to be there, they become self-propelling, beginning to interact with the environments in ways that maintain the culture, getting out there to put collars on polar bears or numbering the hawks.  Even a gigolo who doesn’t want to give up his well-paid life can whisper reassurance in his clients’ diamond studded ears, male or female.  Moving people towards their own emotional and physical homeostasis is a moral thing to do.

At first glance, sexwork is physical work at first glance, but soon becomes obviously a task of maintaining the emotional; well-being of the provider.  Good nutrition is as important as tattoos done under sterile conditions.  Healthy people are good-looking; good-looking people are attractive, so long as their emotional balance is also healthy.

Providing homeostasis to the client by selling something that would otherwise have to be natural in the course of relationships is helpful to the culture.  If it's helpful in the largest sense, it should be culturally approved to write about sex and design a machine or robot that seems like sex.  But people who are at the mercy of the marginally functional -- the abusive, the denigrating -- may not think so.  If their culture and their bodies insist that they should be used and abused, then the homeostasis is out of whack all the way around.  I’m not qualified to say much more, though I know a lot of second-hand stories.   A casually sexual life works for bonobos, but not all humans.


When Colonel Pratt decided to make whites out of Indians, he had the idea that if they were cleaned up, given proper haircuts and clothes, and made to mind their manners, that would do the job.  Likewise, people tend to think that if they take a feral boy off the street who has survived on his own for most of his life and do the same things, the boy will be grateful and act just like his savior, who figures he will automatically give up all the strategies that have kept him alive. But first they want his diseases cured or at least addressed to the level of chronic and noncontagious.  The problem is that the change involved in that -- changes in habit patterns, internal molecular loops, and just general ways of being in the world -- are too much to address while still hungry, shamed, guilty, terrified, and essentially alone.  These are matters of identity and losing one’s identity will only cause panic and rage.

First, there should be food for all kids, places to wash up and eliminate waste that are safe, places to sleep that are safe and warm.    One thing at a time.  Starting to take AIDS meds -- even assimilating the fact of being infected and figuring out what it means (esp. if you think it’s a death sentence) -- might be sort of down the list.  The BEST thing is a trustworthy human contact when you don’t even know what that feels like, so you never look for it and maybe don’t appreciate it when you get it.

Consider that there are plenty of grownups who have the same problems as listed above, even the ones who live in “natural” African villages might not have a trustworthy human contact, which might account for ill-advised out-on-the edge sexual behavior.  There must be a high proportion of incarcerated people with no idea how to guide their own behavior, who will die before they ever find out.  There must be people who function only with constant professional support.   People can stop feeling anything.   But somewhere there must be people who have their boundaries established, keep between the limits of their bodies and minds, live in a supportive community, and still (or maybe consequently) have more energy and insight to offer others.

The tragedy is that most of diseases that can be addressed to the point of becoming chronic must do so in terms of behavior much more complex than taking a pill.  Just taking a pill on time and in the right amounts, just facing the diagnosis which is no longer death but still a lifetime ahead of monitoring and paying.  Getting the meds (even at a free clinic), are an ordeal that presume no competing activities, like a job or even school.  It means stigma, that blood sucking leech.  On the other hand, addressing one disease at the level of habits and sufficiency will probably control secondary diseases at the same time.  Hep C, TB, the usual companions.

But not all boys who behave badly have HIV.  Not all nice boys who have done very little to break rules will escape HIV.  It’s a virus, an opportunist, and skips through the land like a forest fire, creating a mozaic of infection that is undetectable at first without deliberate testing.  It will be years before the HIV impact on the body may be detected, long after the original point of contagion could be identified.  Only recently has it been possible to reduce the HIV viral load below the contagious point.  The good news is that what will control HIV will bring a body into homeostasis and good health FELT as happiness and peace. Some turnaround in emotional life and the personal power that even a boy has will be brought into alignment.  Art and community can do the job.

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