Post #494      THE BODY ELECTRIC

In our view, Walt Whitman’s, lyrically sensitive, “I Sing the Body Electric,” constitutes, his most personally revealing work. In its exciting, enlightened and secular verses, Whitman sees man’s body as likened, in function and significance, to the religious conception of the “soul.” Stated in somewhat, more prosaic language, the body is a magnificent symphony, performing, chemically and electrically, under the direction of the skilled baton of a brilliant conductor, the human brain.

In addition to the recognized influence, imposed by environment, our “free will,” is, exercised or inhibited, in addition, by virtue of our chemistry (ex. depressive, or energetic) in combination with, our nervous system (ex. calm or anxious). Since, as John Locke, famously declared, man’s knowledge is obtained, exclusively, from his personal experience, it appears natural and useful, that some recordation of his events and experiences, be retained, for future accessibility and reference.

Additionally, it is fascinating to learn that human cells are specialized, to conduct electrical currents throughout the body and the brain. It is the instructive messages, sent along this anatomical, super-highway, that are responsible for present action, or inaction, as well as past recollection, pleasant or otherwise. Access to the memory of self-affirming events i.e., those that are supportive of our subjective, self-image, would understandably, seem to be more accessible, than those, which (defensively) are not.

One of the remarkable, but, candidly speaking, equivocal, features of the dynamics of recollection, is the mind’s inclination to spontaneously, summon up memories of former experiences, by the random presentation of a personally nuanced, suggestive stimulus, a highly specific, recollective “trigger.” We would portray, for purposes of clarity, this phenomenon, as analogous to “dedicated lines.” In the telecommunication industry, such term, we understand, refers to a two-way telephone pathway, for discreet, private use (only) by designated parties; in contrast with a shared resource, with multiple users.

Our considered choice, of an electrical, or telephonic simile, has its contextual basis, in our theme, viz., the required awareness, and vigilance of the dynamics of suggestion, in the “calling up” of past thought or recollected experience, by dint of an individually nuanced, suggestively referential, stimulus: resemblances, past thoughts, objects.

Many such (subjective) stimuli, summon recollections that communicate a pleasant reference: salt air, (sunny beach), the smells of baking bread, (good taste, home), smells of barbeque charcoal, (food, friends), a specific perfume, or aromatic soap, (a loved one), chicken soup, (childhood, home). Some ambient clues are productive of bad memories, burning wood (an experienced, house fire), alcohol and floor disinfectant, (hospital and illness), priest and church, (funerals). A further, illustrative, and perhaps, not uncommon, example, is the matter of the restaurant patron, who orders her favorite dish, trout almandine, but on its arrival, judges it as badly cooked, or not smelling right. That diner will, likely, not re-order a properly prepared, trout almandine, nor, for some time, select that, erstwhile, favorite dish, from a menu, elsewhere.

It would seem to be reasonable, for us to proclaim, that there surely must be, at least as many such uncountable impulses, or latent suggestive reactions, as there are people of diverse tastes and experiences. There seem to be areas of life, unfortunately, in which people deny themselves desirable opportunities, or life enhancing experiences, based upon such irrational, suggestive memories. The understanding and awareness of this pre-emptive dynamic, would seem vital, to any rational aspiration for mature perception, basic fairness and essential morality.

The mature and consciously, audited awareness, of this virtually, reflexive phenomenon, is, especially mandatory, on the occasion of meeting new people, whether socially, or in the context of business. The observed inclination or dynamic, may be unfairly and inappropriately, present, at times when individuals, seem find themselves, initially inclined to appraise and react to the newly met person, with a prejudgment, based upon remembered, past experience with another similarly looking, or sounding, person. The initial inclination, to prejudge the new person, based upon perceived, past experience,

The associative inclination is neither rational nor voluntary; it is founded in connectivity, the electrical, “dedicated line,” associating the arbitrarily perceived similarity, between the present stimulus (signal)and the transmitted recollection. When the exercise of judgment or evaluation is needed, sufficient care should be taken to appraise any subject, most especially, any person, on the presented and discernable reality, without the time -worn baggage, of one’s irrelevant past associations or experience.

The evolutionary- gifted, exalted, life of man, whose godly existence and potential for creativity, and goodness, was praiseworthily, sung by the great, 19th Century American poet, Walt Whitman, should be confidently entrusted to seek rational and morally inspired ends, and to restrain every inclination, for reflexively, irrational or reductive, judgments.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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