Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

25Jun/11

Back to Proust Was a Neuroscientist – with an intro riff to Kurzban’s Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite

I'm writing at a Starbucks in Encino today. Outside. Beautiful day. I love L.A.! Just came from a seminar on Neuroscience and Creativity at UCLA. I'll have a few comments about that in a later post. I seem to be on a theme roll for a while here with those two topics. I gotta admit, too, that I am thinking I should write my own book on the topic (maybe after I finish my Amy Beach and Me one). Scientists are studying this, but they are really missing the creativity and creator perspective, I think. I have made a few mentions of this in previous posts (will look up and link here later). There needs to be more cross-talk between scientists and creative people, too. And the scientists must take care that they talk to actual creators, not imitators - the latter being a descriptor for the majority of people practicing any of the arts. That in itself, is a huge topic of discussion - and I will discuss it, but today we are all about Walt Whitman and  Proust and Jonah Lehrer again.

Lehrer focuses attention on poet Walt Whitman's refusal to separate body/flesh and mind/spirit. He cites contemporary neuroscientist, Damasio, who conducted a card game study in which, over time, the game playing subjects' fingers appeared to learn the "danger" of selecting from one card stack before the player consciously became aware of the game's rigged win-lose pattern. The player's fingers would hesitate, perspire, etc. as they approached the incorrect deck. Damasio calls this the "mind-body loop." Lehrer raises this example as a modern day concurrence of science with poet Whitman's apriori understanding of it.

This particular example of Damasio's mind-body loop theory (hypothesis?) does not have me convinced. Why is it thought that the fingers are thinking and reacting, rather than that some part of the unconscious mind is calculating faster than the conscious mind, and directing the fingers to react (via sweat/perspiration) unbeknownst to the conscious mind? Or, perhaps, Lehrer has slightly misrepresented Damasio's theory here. Maybe we need to ask him.

Adding author Robert Kurzban's hypothesis  about mind structure (Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite) to this mind-body loop idea, I might draw a different picture.

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18Jun/11

A night of Latin Jazz, Flamenco, Bossa Nova and my Red Dress song

Terry plays with Goh, Hugo and Barry at Fireside Concert Series in Newbury Park, June 2011

If my Other Mother, Esther, had not passed away two days before this concert, I would have recorded some of it for you. As it was, it was the best I could do to give a good performance. (I will post some music at a later date.) It helped that I had three awesome musicians playing with me: Goh Kurosawa on guitar, Hugo Aguayo on bass and a solo flamenco guitar and Barry Kohan on drums - and an enthusiastic full house of music lovers in the audience. I dedicated the night to Esther, and know that she will inspire the music and writing in me for the rest of my days. Rest in peace, dear dear amazing woman.

I have the next post of Proust Was a Neuroscientist ready to go and will post later today or tomorrow. I'll also have a reading travel story for you soon and am starting Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite if you want to follow along. Oh! and I just finished a Freeman Dyson book and will be riffing about reading science present as science history, which makes for a very interesting and reflective past-time.

And did I mention that I also did a Patsy Cline song? Heartaches. I may sing mostly Latin right now, but old Patsy records are what taught me to sing, so I like to honor her. Some in the band thought it was strange for me to mix country diva Patsy Cline music with Spanish songs, Latin pop and bossa nova. But it went over great. And the guys were hesitant to sing the back up riffs I convinced them to try, but I think they were an audience favorite with their "Heartaches! da da dats"

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