Saturday, December 22, 2018


NOTES  about the brain mostly found on Google:

The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior.

The frontal cortex supports concrete rule learning. More anterior regions along the rostro-caudal axis of frontal cortex support rule learning at higher levels of abstraction.

Many authors have indicated an integral link between a person's will to live, personality, and the functions of the prefrontal cortex. This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior,   The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.

The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social "control" (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes).

There are three possible ways to define the prefrontal cortex:
  • as the granular frontal cortex
  • as the projection zone of the medial dorsal nucleus of the thalamus
  • as that part of the frontal cortex whose electrical stimulation does not evoke movements
  • The prefrontal cortex is of significant importance when top-down processing is needed. Top-down processing by definition is when behavior is guided by internal states or intentions. According to the two, “The PFC is critical in situations when the mappings between sensory inputs, thoughts, and actions either are weakly established relative to other existing ones or are rapidly changing”

I am proposing that most of the characteristics of modern religion are operated and stored in the frontal cortex and particularly the prefrontal cortex, which is the frontal part of the frontal cortex.  There are further developments of this area, like granularity or one of the many types of pyramidal cells that may be there.  At this point I'm out of my league.

What I'm saying is that modern religion, particularly institutional, is a function of this "front of the front" area of the brain behind the forehead.  Theology, history, social roles, committees, community sharing from hymns to potlucks, morality, dogma and their schemata, are all held and explored in this area.

What this means to my pursuit of "felt meaning" is that it's not about this front/front part of the brain and its rationality.  Since the elevation of rationality/science /math by the industrial revolution, high technology, and sophomore undergrad philosoophy, we have assumed that the high-thought functions of the pre-frontal lobe of the brain would naturally be the most important -- at last the final distinction from animals and neanderthals with low foreheads, to say nothing of "low brow" society.  This has led to major neglect of what might be called "concept thought" without words, previous to words, or never really named.   (A framing metaphor in our culture is the high/low reference.)

"Felt Meaning" is about this neglected area: ideas that are held in postures and movement as in dance or certain kinds of therapy (clients acting living sculptures of family relationships) or that contain emotion like pounding or whirling or song, aria or choir.  Evidence suggests that much memory is really sensory information held by cells in the context of time and place.  The examples are things like Proust's madeleine cake or a flashback triggered by the turn of an ankle on an uneven stone walkway.  Much more dramatic are the flashbacks of those struggling with PTSD.

"Feelings" are a way of addressing what is subconscious, which appears (sans Freud) to be a vast storehouse of memories and potentials.  But by definition we have limited access to what is unavailable for analysis and reflection.  Yet, particularly in the humanities, we DO have ways to get at what is usually hidden:  dreams, talking therapy, arts of all kinds, stories, all of it evidently structured through our experience which may begin to form as the very cells and organs of feeling develop in the womb.  One enables the other. 

The fetus may be subjected to harsh emotions through the blood of his or her mother as it is passed across the umbilical cord,  If the fetus is malformed in some way that emphasizes something too much and elides something else, that will affect the infant view of the world by composing the view's foundation, keeping what it knows and discarding the unknown.  The first three years will affirm or deny whatever was started so early in ways that are nearly irreparable.

I am not rejecting conscious, rational, thought-out positions about ethics, economics, leadership, human ultimate goals or anything else like that.  What I believe is that when these things are muted, there is another deeper dimension that can come to the surface, often as "felt meaning," often a coherent epiphany without content that a conscious mind can perceive.  Dreadfully, it could be either positive or negative.  Drugs can reach both.

The "sophomore" mind (remember that the front-of-the-front of the brain is not completely developed until the person is 25) believes he is rational and that he stands alone, can judge anything, but this is a conceit.  In fact, even the infant's mind and body both derive from the mother's mind and body and all those who were before her genetically.  The mother lives in her relationships just as the infant lives in the womb.  The same basic necessities of protection, food, water, and embracing are as vital for the pre-birth entity as they are in the written metaphors of the saints' epiphanies.  

Elemental concepts need to be touched in ceremony or ritual, which is why the dimensions of social consciousness, empathy and relationship religiously support life.  This is the core of what we call "religion", its "felt meaning."  Much of our current pain and crime seems to be deficits of the economy, results of radical displacement under necessity of self-preservation, and needs that are just not met, maybe not even acknowledged.  We live in dissonance.

Soup kitchens are a communion.

For those who have achieved a "felt meaning" of relationship with their surroundings, whether a mountain pass or a humble SOR hotel rental, the result is confidence and energy for going on.  Those who never managed it before will now feel it as a turning point.

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