The body “vs” the mind
For physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
— John F. Kennedy
Our bodies are pretty miraculous when you give them a second thought. They are a network of tissues and organs, all designed for specific jobs that keep you alive. Each part of our body can flow, pump, and process, in the same regular mechanical fashion for 100 years or more. And for whatever reason, it still blows me away to know our bodies can heal themselves.
The brain that sits inside our skull is no real exception within the context of our body. Like other organs, it continuously interacts with the rest of our biology. This interactive process creates the all-important experience that we call our mind.
What exactly do we mean by the mind? You’d think it should be easy to define, but no. People see it and study it in their own peculiar ways. When I say ‘mind’, I use it synonymously with conscious subjective experience; basically how you think and feel. When we think about an old romantic partner, feel melancholic about the loss of a friend, consider what our lives will look like in 20 years, and recall the cannons in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture (or the clapping in the Friends intro music), all of these experiences play out in our mind.
Physical bodily pains such as the discomfort of a broken finger are also experienced in the mind. But we are generally good at treating these by targeting the source of the pain (the broken finger), rather than its experience (the mind). It is more sensible to bandage a finger until it recovers and the experience of pain disappears, rather than keeping the finger broken and trying to remove the pain we experience in our mind. But with many of our other everyday emotional pains and bad thinking patterns, we rarely find a single finger to bandage.
The sources of our mental problems are more abstract and less easy to pinpoint than our physical problems. Why am I more anxious about my career today compared to yesterday, even though nothing has changed? Why…