Monday, August 9, 2010

220 / Mixed Mind

The idea I liked best in Sebastian Faulks' book, Human Traces, is the idea that "humans" emerged as a separate species at the time when the brain began to hold internal conversations with itself.

Faulks' book is, more than anything else, an exploration of psychiatry, and is set in a period when this discipline was first being developed. One of the main characters develops a theory that the disease of schizophrenia is inevitably related to what makes us human. We are human, he decides, because we do have an "internal discussion" between the two apparently identical halves of our brain, and when the "voices" within us "escape," and seem to come from "outside," the disease is manifested. In fact though, holding such conversations with "voices" not our own is what makes us "human," and different from the other animals.

Also impressive is Faulks' idea that the voices of the "gods," which came to humans from the "outside," and gave them directions, were just a projection of one of our inner voices to the outside, so that it could be "dealt" with appropriately, before humans really learned how to contain and employ these voices internally.

Faulks' idea, I think, is much the same as the kind of "reflection" that I do believe permits humans to create a world all of their own, rather than simply to inhabit the world of Nature. We are "human," in other words, because we do live within a world that we create ourselves. This is what distinguishes us from all the other creatures on this Earth, and we construct the world as we discuss, internally, what it is we wish to do, and then follow that command.

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