Friday, June 02, 2017


The pre/un/sub-consciousness is the tectonic pattern underlying the acting identity of the conscious mind which is equivalent to the lithosphere or the craton.  This metaphor is close to fact, except that instead of the giant “plates” under the continents, which drift and collide and subduct, causing the earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, are the rigid ideas we learn in childhood.   “Everything below is asthenosphere, the hot, plastic interior of the earth.  Within the asthenosphere are convection cells, slowly turning over hot, plastic rock. The convection cells bring heat from the earth's interior out to the surface, but slowly.”

Sounds like Freud more than Jung, theology more than biology, but nature loves a fractal.  Not “fracking”, which is different but also geological, a form of social greed always trying to create profit by drilling into human cratons, releasing desire and craving —sometimes rage — shaking and contaminating the water that is life, generosity, growth.

I’ve talked about the effect on my “craton” of the pressure of social judgment assigning me a “place” in the social lithosphere according to its values.  If you look at the humanities skills of reading/writing, mythic narrative, “IQ”, then in the academic world I’m at the bottom of the top.  If you look at independence, empathy, and lack of prosperity, then in an indigenous tribal world, I’m at the top of the bottom.  My indifference to cleanliness, fashion, pie socials, and cutting the grass puts me down low in the small town world.  But I own a lot of books, which means an upward trend.  

The awareness of controlling social status by shifting “geography” means that I have all the wrong attitudes towards it (status is relative) and I really ought to be writing novels, which were invented to address social quandaries that preoccupy the bourgeois and which might at least make a little money.  In geomorphology, geography and geology, “a bench or benchland is a long, relatively narrow strip of relatively level or gently inclined land that is bounded by distinctly steeper slopes above and below it.”  Valier is on the bench that creates an ecotone on the east slope of the Rockies.

I love the inner sensation — a compass, a GPS, a seismograph, an altimeter — of toiling up a long slope (an ecotone) and first looking over the high point, which feels very much like the internal moments when I discovered I was reading or riding a bike.  It was a skill that gave access to terrain, as though standing at the highest point where the watersheds divided, a horizon that called the bear who went over the mountain to seek what he could seek. That’s not quite the interpretation of some people, who leave off the "k" as is expressed in this ditty:  They stay in the valley and —as my mother used to say — pool their ignorance because they think the valley is the whole shebang that others know as “the world.”

When I received my academic “hood” on achieving the MA benchmark ( Remember:  “In geomorphology, geography and geology, a bench or benchland is a long, relatively narrow strip of relatively level or gently inclined land that is bounded by distinctly steeper slopes above and below it.”Hannah Gray said, “your degree is your hunting license — you are now equipped to pursue the Ph.D. and life itself.”  She did use the license metaphor which is what academia is about: culture-defined and permitted benchmarks of privilege, but she didn’t use the “life itself” part.  She could have, but the Ph.D. turned out to mean following the already drawn maps in order to add detail.  Contradict or innovate too much, and the way is barred.

If one is paying attention to the tectonic metaphor, which is deeper and more powerful than any map, even one drawn to match satellite info and fudged to make two-dimensional flat paper out of the three-dimensional surface of a sphere, the path will be moving and changing all the time anyway.  Ice crashing into the sea making the coastline entirely different and swallowing islands; coral atolls bleaching in the increasing ph (not Ph.D) of the water; and schools of fish diminishing just like the human-invented schools.  In a human lifetime, it is possible to go “there” and discover there IS no there there.  But it is also possible to discover you were there all the time.

There is no id/ego/libido etc. because they are invented concepts.  There is no universal deep mythic reservoir because if it were really the shrinks' universally Greek myths, it would be no different from the limited and geographical nature of Christianity and her Abrahamic brothers.  These are cultural and ecological, useful but invented “theres.”

“There” is a geography of the human mind, which is a craton floating on plate tectonics evolved by mammals before hominins, blossoming as a knob at the top of the spine and gradually differentiating like life itself, because to be alive is to vary and then some variations are killed or empowered by drought, rapine, sailing ships, computers or family.  The survivors blossom further.  We call it evolution.

This present version of hominin is reflexive and worries about things like death.  I had a friend who fed his horses slightly moldy hay and the mold spores, fungi, were inhaled by him and began to grow in his lungs which came close to killing him.  His doctor said it was hard to treat fungus because their biology is so close to human cells that it's hard to damage the fungi without destroying lung cells, which are ultimately little one-celled creatures collaborating in the creation and maintenance of a human body.  

I read that some experts feel that in the division between plants and animals, fungi should be moved over to the animal side.  If one thinks about the fungal mycelia that connect and collaborate under the earth with their entwining and informing filaments, a brain is like a fungus with mycelium neuron axons.  We are also rethinking the boundary between inert and living, the boundary where viruses like HIV lurk and thumb their molecular noses at us.  Scientists attempt to shock blobs into living and prepare lab-made nuclei ready to insert.  Some day it will work.

We achieve all this by using the brain to do mathematical logic and testing, a kind of exploration.  But the desire to do it, the aha moment of topping the edge of the watershed, is farther back in the brain and gut, in the mycelium of a human body, the limbic system, the two neuronal systems, the empowering fire of oxygen in the blood.

The definition of “bench” is multiple — place to sit, lab working surface, geology, and — in the gymnasium — “bench pressing”.  ”The bench press is an upper body strength training exercise that consists of pressing a weight upwards from a supine position.”  Time is what pushes down on us, even when we rest, supine.  There is a champion weight lifter who is named “Mountain.”  Google is asked “how much weight can Mountain press?”  A geological mountain can lift the lithosphere higher and higher but never into outer space as the mycelia (computers, algorithms) can hurl human artifacts.  If they have enough desire.

A boundary — like the constructed social boundaries of class, achievement, stigma, wealth — can mark a path.  So we have many trails to follow: what divides life from inert, what divides plants from animals, what divides the pre/un/sub-consciousness from the reflective (self-aware) and intentional identity?  Pedal faster, climb higher, open eyes wider.  What do you see, bear?

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