Ghosts and Machines

On November 4, 2014, at 8:07 a.m., I printed out an article about Charles Darwin. It wasn’t too long or life changing, but I’ve been carrying it around, in one folder or another, since that time. (Humans are weird.)

It begins by noting that Darwin was a “dogged, daily walker,” and then it goes on to tie this practice to his intellectual output, which was massive.

His path was a gravel track near his home. He called it his “thinking path,” and he walked it twice each day. Such walking kept him healthy in all the ways that walking does. It was also part of his “cognitive labor” — so, something he did each day to help him to solve problems in his work. It spurred his creativity. Here’s a notable passage from the article:

Scientists speak of “transient hypofrontality”: a state-of-mind promoted by pursuits that require physical exertion but little thought or concentration. The parts of the brain that coordinate general concepts and rules are turned down, while the motor and sensory parts are turned up. In this state, ideas and impressions mingle more freely. Unusual and unexpected thoughts arise.

Having said that, the author of the article draws together body and mind, and I’m guessing this is the point that made me carry it around for all these years: “Thinking is embodied, and acting is mindful. We are not ghosts in a machine.”

What’s at stake in such an assertion is human wholeness and flourishing. Not a life hack, but a life.

Source: Damon Young in The Guardian

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