Mind and Body:
From René Descartes to William James

Writing Descartes:
I Am, and I Can Think, Therefore ...

Story Evolution
Catanese/Grobstein
8 September 2004

An exchange arising out of Writing Descartes ...

Elizabeth:

am enjoying the new additions to serendip- and like that the forum has kept going... even though it's very much about exploring risk and "change", it seems like something very constant in my life.. always something to do there... always interesting people, interesting thoughts...

Paul:

Glad you like Serendip, and are helping to keep it live. Maybe change is the "constant"?

Elizabeth:

Change as constant, yes... the only thing constant is change- etc.... but some things that change are unsettling and some change happens within a steady structure... change within serendip will not cause it to spontaneously destruct or fall in on itself... change within self is a little bit harder- things changing inside seem a bit more difficult then changes happening in the external world... although the two (internal and external) enhance each other... constantly play with one another, engage with one another- cannot be separated sometimes. But watching change happening in an enclosed environment... although you and anne would prob. agree that serendip is not a closed system but an open one... (i think that its quite expansive but not entirely open b/c nothing can be) is somewhat comforting, interesting... handlable... lots and lots of apples but you CAN go one bite at a time... it's all in the way the mind wants to see it, i think...

Paul:

like the "one bite at a time" idea. And "all in the way the brain wants to see it", of course. Think the hard/interesting part may be in the "happens within a steady structure" vs "spontaneously destruct or fall in on itself" and in the outside/inside distinction. Have no idea what Anne thinks, but intrigued by the idea myself that Serendip has evolved into a "safe"(?) or at least supportive environment that allows people somehow to entertain possibilities of change in themselves that would be more difficult in other environments. Is that just the "one bite a a time" or is there something more to it than that? Wonder what/where is the "steady structure"? where the "enclosed environment"? and where the "spontaneously destruct or fall in on itself" comes in?

Elizabeth:

Well, at the begining of the summer I would have said just the opposite- that my notion of self was more autonomous and somehow Serendip was just a little too much- very interesting but not quite safe- fragile kind of... but sometime in between calling Serendip an intellectual stimulant drug and getting heavily into the painting dialogue with Sharon and Lucy, I realized that the not quite safe/ fragility was not something out there (in Serendip) but rather, within me... that i'd somehow projected the internal on the external. So for now, Serendip feels quite safe and comforting.

More to it (than "one bite at a time"). Not sure what. Has a bit to do with the logic of the site also... and the familiarity I think- knowing basically what i'll see when i go there in terms of how things work and then within the basic structure, things are changing and evolving... but more than that even, though I'm not sure what.

spontaneously destruct or fall in on itself feels to me to be related to entropy again. or maybe just the idea that a buildup of "stuff" will eventually cause things to collapse... but what i'm thinking is that if one's not able to compartmentalize... i.e. if one does not have a good amount of control over sensory imput and what goes into the brain, then the stuffness of the inside will always somehow be more overwhelming than the stuffness of the outside... and the self is much more likely to "spontaneously destruct or fall in on itself". It's then that the outside world and the ordering of it (the symmetry of leaves and plants, the links on serendip, the way we've divided days into time blocks) becomes a model and a type of comfort for how to manage the material on the inside world... to prevent collapse... and if we think that everything is filtered through us... everything in the outside world "IS" based on our perception of it... well that's a little bit scary but it makes total sense... we are looking for order out there so that we can better order what's inside-

Paul:

Am more than a little intrigued, on behalf of Serendip and otherwise. Is interesting to think of Serendip as "just a little too much", maybe useful to keep in mind as it continues to evolve. Equally interesting though is that your perspective on Serendip changed without it itself changing. So yes, the "internal on the external" important too. And so maybe sometimes in some ways Serendip just has to sit there and wait and hope ....

The inside/outside even more rich generally. Makes me think of your installation piece (that I hope we'll have some version of on-line soon), our conversation about mirrors (is what one sees in a mirror inside the mirror outside it? how about if its a wavy or frosted mirror?). And your "stuffness on the inside will always somehow be more overwhelming than stuffness on the outside" reminds me of Rachel Berman's "Problem is that I have 'so much to work with'", Anne Dalke's "one's own unruly unconscious", perhaps Anneliese Butler's "infinite series of interconnected points" and Lucy Darlington's "three dimensional madras plaid". The idea that the "outside" can be used to stablize the "inside" is one I like and teach about (since there is some good neurobiological evidence for it). But the thinking about mirrors somehow makes me wonder anew about the more traditional view, or at least the likely additional ability of the inside to stablize the outside (which would then in turn stablize the inside. How would one know whether the "instability" is actually inside or outside? If each is reflecting the other then perhaps it doesn't matter, the trick would be to interrupt the loop by stabilizing either side (which in turn would stabilize the other). Hmmmm. Pretty complicated in words. Want to try a picture?


See on-line forum for continuing conversation and to leave your own thoughts.




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