Monday, March 25, 2013

Mind vs Body

The mind and the body each have their own tasks and responsibilities and, for the most part through most of our lives, they make a pretty good team. But like any couple, there are moments of dissension and minor disagreements.

When you must work while you're tired, the mind can get downright petulant. When the body is doing something of little interest to the mind, the mind will decide it wants to go to sleep. The body disagrees. The mind sulks. And suddenly, halfway through writing a paragraph about one thing, you find yourself writing about something totally different. Dreams come bubbling up into the space normally occupied by the consciousness, blending so subtly with what you're supposed to be doing that you aren't even aware of it. But the siren song of dreams beckons seductively and lures you, totally unaware, into sleep.

While this can be embarrassing in the workplace, it can be fatal behind the wheel of a car. There is nothing more terrifying than to be driving along while you're tired and somehow, so subtly you aren't aware of it, you're standing beside a waterfall, watching someone you may or may not know wading in a beautiful pool...until suddenly you're jolted awake by the jouncing of the car's tires leaving the road and moving onto the shoulder.

The mind has no idea of what it's done, or that it could have gotten you killed. It meant no harm. It merely wanted to make you go to sleep.

Generally, in the mind/body balance, it is the mind which is in control, but not always, and sometimes it overestimates what the body can do and makes demands on it which it cannot meet. It frequently pushes the body to its limits, occasionally to the point of harming it. However, it is not unheard of for the body to take control away from the mind, effectively locking it into a form of solitary confinement which is terrifying to contemplate. Stroke victims and those suffering from other severe physical conditions such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called "Lou Gehrig's Disease) face challenges and frustrations most of us cannot even begin to comprehend.

But even in the most normal and healthy of lives, the mind and the body get into petty jurisdictional disputes to see which one has dominance. You awake in the middle of the night and your mind decides it wants to know what time it is. In order to look at the clock, the body would have to sit up or turn over, which it really don't want to do. But the mind wants to know what time it is. The body doesn't care what time it is; all it wants is to get back to sleep. But the mind refuses to let it do so until the body opens its eyes to look at the damned clock! The body refuses to look at the clock, and the mind refuses to let it get back to sleep. In this particular battle between mind and body, the mind always wins. Always. You will look at the clock.

The body is capable of exactly the same type of games. You are doing something requiring the full use of both your hands. That little spot just under your nose begins to itch. You decide to ignore the itch thinking it will go away. It does not. You instruct your mind to make it go away. You concentrate. It still itches. You get angry. You'll be damned if you're going stop what you're doing, and put everything down to be a slave to some stupid itch. The itch isn't going away. It's getting worse. It's driving you absolutely insane. You stop whatever you're doing, put down whatever you have in your hand(s) and scratch the itch.

But despite their squabbling, and despite how upset we may become with one or the other when they fail us, the fact is that we cannot get along without either one, and as long as we are conscious of our own existence, we should let our gratitude for both of them overcome any unhappiness with their shortcomings.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

A delightful Monday post, Mr. Grey! This is exactly the sort of whimsical approach I needed to start my day. Thank you, sir. =)

Vastine Bondurant said...

I sure did enjoy this!
While they sure don't work together in perfect synch sometimes, your thoughts make me so aware what a truly machine our body/mind combination is.