What is it that broke my soul?

I suppose I ought return now, having wandered over my tangents, to that question about love, romance, and sex.   To do so, I first must return to McCulloch, who wrote a fascinating essay in 1969, “Of I and It.”   His thesis: “those events that occur as intended may be experienced by the actor as I, me, mine; all else, as it.”   He nodded to those like Hobbes, whose Leviathan, and its faith in subordinating particular bodies within that of an artificial body politic, he quoted by way of introduction, and those like Foucault and Searle whose interests, as I alluded before, I perceive in the way of the Kantian “epistemological knower,” whether by studying how the control of knowledge renders power, or analyzing our intentions through our knowledge about communicative acts.   McCulloch though was too much of a scientist and advocated for the seldom understood “empirical knowers” (dare I say of logical sense):

 “To know the beautiful, the holy, the universe, or even my lady, in the sense of being one with them, is to know even as a scientist knows his little domain of data. If you ask him what he means when he says that something is real, he will tell you that it is real if it goes by some law of its own! But his test remains like that of the self-distrustful sentimental lover. He is sure that it is love, and not just his invention or his fancy, only when it goes against him.”

It comes perhaps as no surprise then that he ends with a Ginsburg poem – no, not Allen’s, but his father Louis’ – “Octopus in an Aquarium Tank,” as if begging us to pursue the promises of the Devilfish, once the wonder of scientists becoming self-aware neuroscientists fascinated with this invertebrate’s nervous system able to operate without any feedback.

There was a time I too was a confirmed epistemological knower who believed faithfully in the power of narrative – in the stories we tell ourselves – to understand ourselves and our world.   It was, as again McCulloch puts it, a theory of consciousness and self-consciousness in terms of their “social sense of the agreement of witnesses.”

I became though like Katya in Chekhov’s “A Boring Story.”   Once in love with the theater and inspired to be an actress she becomes disillusioned upon actually living that life and sponsoring its activity.   She returns, tainted with the sins of a broken relationship out of wedlock and an illegitimate child who died, to live near her once guardian, an old, renowned doctor slowly dying between his scientific lectures.   Although regularly courted by a pompous philologist, her real love, albeit a somewhat daughterly love, is for the doctor, and she tries to make his life more comfortable, recognizing his own family fails to really see him and his struggles to survive, whether that be to support their increasingly aristocratic tastes, or his students’ demands for intellectual social climbing, or to just breathe as his health fails him.

Chekhov, a sometime confident of Tolstoy, so often visited that shared tension between decisive action – of sovereign will or intent – and scientific contemplation – of the stream of conscious awareness of the attended moment-by-moment of the here and now, and the tension too between intimate, expressive love and social conformity and its blind indifference.

Katya’s doctor recognizes that sovereignty – as in Baudelaire – was being usurped as a person’s right as it was slowly being placed in some nebulous, indifferent artifice he cannot free himself of no matter the spite it causes him.     The tragic end is that Katya in her existential angst demands action from her beloved doctor; she wants him to do something to help make her feel better, and he cannot do anything but respond “there’s nothing,” that he is incapable of helping her, that he doesn’t know, and with that she leaves him as he feels the loss of her treasured love and being.

What’s more, that moment of loss occurs precisely when the doctor is away trying to discover, at his wife’s insistence, whether his daughter’s suitor is a fraud or not.   Just as he discovers the suitor is indeed a fraud, the doctor receives an indifferent telegram telling him to come home because his daughter, a student of music, and the fraud, a self-proclaimed critic of music and theater, had married.

One is implicated in the indifferent truth of the success of deceit.   One day, if I ever pull myself together, I’d like to write about what happens to Katya after she leaves the doctor.   I imagine her, broken, returning dejected to that pompous philologist that courts her, but only in private, for it gives him cover to mock the society that refuses to recognize her.   She confronts him with this truth, demanding he act on his real convictions, and to marry her.   He delays, he hedges, he makes grand promises for weeks and months, between jealous barbs at her old doctor, and then one day, as she breaks habit and, at considerable expense to herself, visits him at his classroom, he reveals himself as a prisoner of the very society he detests, for upon seeing her, his own autonomic nervous system revolts in a spontaneous thunder of hacking, and he too pretends to fail to know her but as anything more than some forgotten old acquaintance, throwing her right back into the grips of the doctor to whose authority he in fact deferred.

It is the bind the modern philosopher like Descartes puts one in.   Love – to be true love, or something with eternal value – must be volitional, and as for those passions of the body, for them to become of authentic value, rather than mere deceptive errors, they must be purified of their worldliness, or more precisely, reasoned into clear and distinct ideas.

I myself am confused by love. I told that man in search of a soul mate that I wavered in understanding it as a political emotion of justice qua Martha Nussbaum or an historically imposed ideological manipulation of empire qua Elizabeth Povinelli, and in understanding romance as those formalized rites of honorable courtship or nature formally strained – may we say alienated – in moral, aesthetic ideals, masking the underlying brute Machiavellian machinations of our hungry sexual desires and animalistic appetites.

Either way, neither is as destitute as that existential angst of helpless indifference, the real antithesis of love. It is this I think that troubled Kierkegaard in his Philosophical Fragments written under the auspices of Johannes Climacus (whose Ladder of Divine Ascent was evoked too by Wittgenstein at the mystical end of his Tractus, to his mentor Russell’s blind and deaf horror.)

Kierkegaard attempted to understand this paradox, in which the imminent is negated in the essence of God or the Universe at the same time its emergence is an existential leap of faith in its very divinity. This passion is Socratic or Christ-like, at the cross of the erotic and self, the love of that of another and that for one’s self, in which the self becomes the surrendered spoils of the war of eroticism, of that which one must unconsciously seek to survive, to exist, a spiritual trial whose paradox understanding shatters.   This passion, Kierkegaard suggests is not necessarily love, but concludes something “we must simply try to find a name for.”

To end once more on McCulloch, it, an indifferent evil that is always real, like an historical event or developmental conflict, unlike the nebulousness of goodness, like a future expectation based on a past promise, must be negated, ought to be refuted:

“In presenting this thesis to you as an invasion of communication theory into psychology and philosophy, it is my hope that it will sooner or later encounter evil, namely, a flat contradiction in fact. Only such a fate will prove that it was not a pseudologiafantástica but the theory I intended it to be. I commend it to you for refutation.”

And so it goes, I buck against that horse whisperer who would break again my heart, that organ Harvey declared, against Descartes’ mechanical objections, the life of animals, “the sovereign of everything within them, the sun of their microcosm, that upon which all growth depends.”     But why is it I feel we have become but ghosts in a machine?


What is it that broke my mind?

It’s this, what happens when things don’t map – or fail to correspond – seamlessly that I think deserves more attention.   It’s actually not such a new problem.   About a century before scientists were awarded a Nobel prize for discovering our “inner GPS,” Charles Sander Peirce, who always gives me a headache reading him, as if I were Athena painfully emerging from Zeus’s head, was paving the way for such thinking.  In my error-prone interpretation of him, his triadic logic of signs locates possible tension between first (iconic), second (indexical), and third (symbolic) positions.   Mediating that tension brings authentic change.   We, however, I fear tend to be afraid of such authentic mediation in our blind faith to index (or map) our personal (first-person) sensations according to standard symbolic representations (or generalized knowledge) about things.

A relative of mine, in the fictive world of kin, once studied motion sickness as an index of sensory conflict, which always makes me think of Sartre’s Nausea.   Yet, what that work, if I understand it correctly, demonstrates is that those who are diagnosed as psychotic are more sensitive to conflicts between their sensations of actual physical phenomena and the way they are socially mapped, that is cognitively categorized and recognized.   In other words, psychosis, whether affective as in the case mostly of young women, or non-affective as often in the case of even younger boys, may make complete logical sense as Deleuze points out.

It’s like so many of Shakespeare’s kings: they go mad before they come to their better senses. They don’t do as they ought until they comprehend that what is was not what they thought it must be. And perhaps that is why there are some neuroscientists advocating we listen to anthropologists, like some of those who influenced me most as an undergraduate, such as Mary Douglas interested in myth (belief structures) and Victor Turner ritual (cultural performances).

Not that I think anthropology is devoid of complicity in our current state of affairs, and I don’t think that is just because I’m still covering painful scars and bruises under my turtlenecks. The anxious turn in 1986 to the “crisis of representation” fails at the end to do more than lock us within the Pandora’s box of Frankenstein, that carefully constructed science fiction of the deconstruction of liberty framed within a representational republic, layer after layer of someone else narrating the actual monstrous events of a scientist trying to reanimate the dead.

It’s as if they swallowed Vine Deloria, Jr., and found their belly hurting so badly, they felt they must regurgitate him, and his peers, as the source of authentic native advocacy, avoiding the fact his sources were often more modern than their own, whether it be John G. Neihardt mangling Black Elk, his father’s Episcopalian ministry, the Lutheranism of his theology degree, or his education in Liberalism from the law school that taught Byron White (and my grandfather, not that this matters to anyone but me as I never knew him).   True, anthropologists have since turned the corner, maybe now from acquired acid reflux, and celebrate such hybridity, almost as if it’s the sole entry into becoming a cosmopolitan elite, for good or bad, for let’s not forget “Jihadi John” was educated in London from the time he was six until he earned a degree in information systems with business management.

Perhaps I am a bit bitter having stumbled on recent community health reports of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation while revisiting my love of ethnopoetics, for a comparative poetry course was the one thing that kept me from dropping out of grad school.   Despite the infusion of a Freire-inspired community mobilization process, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis continue to increase dramatically.  What struck me most in these reports though was the stress on rights and personal responsibility.   One elder, Aurelia Stacona, is quoted as saying in 2012:

“We grew up on dried salmon; the heads had the most vitamins. We drank water. Mom cooked roots, dad went hunting and fishing; no fried food.   Today we have to take care of ourselves. No one else will do it for us … it’s our choice and right to be healthy.”

Yet, they have plenty of people coming in telling them how to be healthy. These same people are applauding their small successes: an annual ritual cited in the Healthy Nations report as a success is a Halloween party, for although once “this party ended with 300 people in jail because of drunkenness and disorderly conduct,” now it is a “healthier tribal gathering,” because positive messages are conveyed “about lifestyle choice, relationships, and interpersonal respect.”

It’s as if I’m reading Iris Young about how those affected by structural violence have the greatest personal responsibility to do something about it.   It is a Henry James or Edith Wharton novel moralizing against the dinginess of life rather than a Baudelaire poem rejected by James for living it.   I don’t want to read another ethnography in the fashion of James or Wharton.   I want an anthropology that explains, among other things, that stress of finding oneself all alone subject to the Kafkaian trial of responding to one’s compromised position, as humanist scientists want to sample you, from your stories, kin networks, to your DNA, to understand the disparity, and politicians want to examine in excruciating detail your every response to determine whether it’s appropriate or not.  What exactly does that do to one’s body?

And, no, I don’t want the answer served to me on a continental menu that would subject the body to some objective like its freedom, for although Foucault tried to invert Kant, in the end he held his same ends.   Not that I’m against freedom, mind you, but I find, it’s like what economists found about happiness, the greater it’s valued, the more we set a hierarchy of limits to its attainment, and the more we find ourselves unhappy struggling against those limits ruling us in some probably Freudian-like-analyzed way.

Indeed, we are fluttering at this crux I cannot fully articulate, but at which point I keep turning to a Sahaptin story recorded by Virginia Hymes with Hazel Suppah.   It is the story of Basket-Woman and Raven’s children.

Act I. Raven, returning each day from digging roots, asks her children to fetch her water. After they have ignored her request for five days, she flies away as a raven.   Left alone, the children wander crying and are captured by Basket-Woman.

Act II. Trapped in Basket-Woman’s basket, the children make and put in effect a plan.   They escape as she is carrying them home to feed to her own children. Discovering they are gone, she pursues them to where Crane has helped them across the river.   His advice to her as to how to cross leads to her drowning.

Crane’s advice to Basket-Woman was to stuff her dress with rocks, thereby “predicting” her.   Whenever I think about this story, I see Virginia Wolfe, mistress of the stream of consciousness, stuffing her pockets with rocks and slowly walking into the River Ouse to her death, not long after writing “The Death of the Moth.”

Yet, at this very moment we celebrate such consciousness as Wolfe’s. There are those like Stuart Kauffman who are again trying to reconcile Leibnitz’ calculus, whose symbolic notation system prevailed, with Newton’s, whose functional system of motion was foundational in natural law and history, and in doing so discover that consciousness does indeed stream, that it flows like an embodied spirit, or is a mode of ever-emergent being in a quantum network.   In this they celebrate its improvisational creativity, its jazz.   We can self-generate, be self-autonomous, we are indeed free, we are not dependent on our environment, or a physics dominated by the force of gravity, perhaps borrowed by Hobbes for his conception of sovereignty, and by Darwin for natural selection.

I, however, am wary of denying gravity, cutting off the sovereign’s head, and failing to adapt to our habitats, in our efforts to program autonomous selves capable of their own mediation or transformation at critical structural nodes regulated by some network-recognized formal logic.   Maybe that is because of what I and those I work with do: read schemas and make sure structured texts validate against it, or write regular expressions or other scripts to transform those texts to meet the requirements of different schemas, or to conform to the requirements of new applications.   All of that happens under the executioner’s hood and few are aware of it, leaving its magical power to those capable of consciously automating it.

Anthropologists’ current love affair with Latour falls in this trap.   Latour seems to follow Spinoza to model phenomena in schemas, preferring to use attributes, or modes of being, rather than elements, or beings-in-themselves, to make his theory more elegantly scripted.   Those schemas are the formal logic regulating the possibilities at any node in a social network.   In other words, the social scientist’s job is to trace a being through the network and observe what happens – or emerges – at any given node so that we may adapt the network as necessary to regulate it according to our principled, and cost-benefit calculated, requirements, understanding that any being is capable of become self-aware of all of this too, and may try to manipulate it to its own ends, thus necessitating the erection of costly barriers to gaining such expertise.

What happens then in time is that complexity ensues leading to unpredictable environments that depend more and more on automated algorithms – or set of automatic rules granted sovereignty – whose power is limited to fewer and fewer experts.

In turn our once ritualized rites of passages into a sovereign body have shifted to our bodies becoming playfully disciplined by a long-dead sovereign to choose among simulations limiting our possibilities.

Far from prevailing dogma that we are freer this way, Foucault was right, as those following him like Agamben, in understanding, we are more governed and controlled and surveilled than ever, precisely because of that fear someone may hijack a network, leading to our rush of moral panics.   Ultimately, because of Raven’s and Basket-Woman’s difficulties caring for their children, we are controlled by Crane, predictably ready to tell someone to go drown themselves if they go against his revitalized – reprogrammed – rules, called by some tradition, others justice, and yet others revolution or the word of God.

I don’t think the answer though is to continue to obsessively understand the history or workings of this problem, to self-consciously trace its formations, for ultimately it will lead, as Georg Lukács foresaw, inThe Problems of a Philosophy of the History of Forms,” to a profound loneliness, of losing, like Hölderlin, attachment to time and space, of becoming absolutely distrustful upon becoming but a problem onto itself.   That state of isolated being is also too easily prone to being taken advantage of by scammers.

I’m not quite sure how, but as I said before myself falling at risk of drowning myself in my own monologue, we need to look outside of ourselves again, to βίος (bios) rather than ζωή (zoe), as Arendt described in “The Concept of History: Ancient and Modern.” Like Bernard Williams, she turns to the ancient Greeks’ sense of mortality, of a person’s rectilinear path ζωή (zoe) through the cyclical movement of biological life βίος (bios), in contrast to Christianity’s inversion of this, in which the only way to experience this is through the sacrificed immortal body of Christ.

Rather than this later intensionality, we need, I feel, to return to extensionality, and to contradict myself, to the substance of our shared materiality.   We need to turn to those like Wittgenstein, whom I was spoon fed in college by his friends without my realizing it, and who, although ironically diagnosed with Asperger’s, was committed to defending the external properties of bodies rather than just the shared internal definitions and particular logic of their being. For example, he denied the possibility of any “private language” by fact that all language is social and thus capable of being learned.   He recognized though the tension between, as he put it in On Certainty, what you can count on, or rely on, and what you know.   One can only show the former, by pointing it, for instance, at the latter, or by struggling to poetically describe it.   Still, those external factual things exist, and according to the rules of one’s society, may or may not be named.   Some things must be shown and others often fall by ignored.

Our focus ought return again on how our bodies are adapting – or are failing to adapt – to such external stresses of our ecology rather than our mind’s ability to willfully – intentionally – transform it or spiritually endure it through our work and play.   Only then will we be able to really discover our bodies again, and not have our immune systems attack themselves, or our bodily sensations invalidated by our formal schemas, or our differences – our natural diversity – strained by artificial constraints – usually the cultural legacy of the winners of our past conflicts.   History, it is said, is something written after the fact by its winners. Myth, on the other hand, flows from those present in time and place.

What is it that broke my body?

My heart recently broken by a horse whisperer, a long forgotten ghost of Wodan from the time before Sunna was translated into neutered masculinity, or an inverse Virginian Orlando, I have been hobbling in pain.   And in that pain I’ve been straining against the reins that would subdue me.

I was asked not long ago by someone in search of his soul mate, “what is the difference between love, romance, and sex?”   A dissertation could be found in that I sighed in lazy exasperation.   Still, it got under my skin like some foreign allergen and I’ve been scratching myself endlessly since.

In it are many old questions that once animated me, like what is it that makes me who I am (my soul, my body, my mind), and what is it that connects us (our stories and rituals or reason and power or history and conflict), and you get the picture.   So I started digging through my old favorite sources getting more and more confused (and irritated), which is why I’m here trying to sort it out.

This man in search of a soul mate told me to listen to and trust my heart.   I had to explain I have a very complicated relation to its fibers, for as I shared, I’ve seen heart tissue dissected, isolated, clamped to wires as it soaks in chemical solutions, and shocked to understand its rhythms.   That is what my father did when I was a child and would spend days off from school in his lab.

What I only just learned is that his profession was likely first wrought from philosophers, novelists, and explorers perplexed about how invisible animal spirits transverse the nerves.   There was Plato and torpedo rays, and then Aphra Behn, a 17th century English Restoration playwright and novelist, and the electric eel, for example.

Unlike many, I’m incapable of understanding myself as purely a substance, whether immaterial or material, or as an essential attribute extended by God or a genetic variant evolved by Nature.    That is to devoid us of the dynamic shock – not purely an “it” or “thing” – but flowing current – that moves us and gives us life.

It can be deeply revealing though to understand why we try to locate the soul – or what it is that makes us who we are – in a particular body part, but to believe that as fact is misplaced.   Few of us, I bet, would follow Baudelaire in allegorically finding it in the spleen, no matter how Walter Benjamin found the source of Baudelaire’s bitterness in Parisian bourgeois sensibility, in his perception that individual taste became but a reproduced simulation of consumed moral standards.

I confess I follow Baudelaire more in his parodies of romanticism than those who seek medieval chivalry in its courtships.   For hearing me talk, my soul talks to me through my gut, which I suppose makes sense as I’m one of more than 50 million Americans, 75 percent of whom are women, suffering from an autoimmune disorder, or where one’s immune system starts attacking itself because it does not recognize itself as itself.

My own admittedly amateur theory, cobbled together from my gobbled readings, is that we can probably blame stress, such as theorized in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, for a lot of this, and that our microbial cells (or 90 percent of us) have evolved to resist our modern everyday rituals of ignoring their benefits and attacking their harms, which sometimes we obsessively overdo, as we are now seeing with antibiotic abuse (and yes, my doctor has prescribed me an antibiotic for a virus!), leading to major problems with antimicrobial resistances, among other things. There is related philosophical speculation elsewhere.

I suppose I could take some comfort that my multinodular goiter – an artifact of my thyroid autoimmune disorder – was once a distinction of beauty in Renaissance and Baroque art.

Where the big money is on, of course, is the brain, not surprising given our obsessions for executive control and processing, which would please Descartes tremendously as he sought in the brain’s pineal gland the source of humanity’s unique identity, our self-consciousness, or our ability to consciously know and thus will freely, choose rationally.

I discussed this trumping of the brain indirectly with my grandmother over lunch once. She had been part of a research team that conducted one of the first brain scans and thus thought, even as she was slowly beginning to dement, that it would make an excellent science experiment to test whether a person would remain the same person if that person split that person’s brain and exchanged half of it with another person.

I really don’t want to revisit that old thought experiment, in part because it led to some really bad dialogue, but rather, I want to dig back to the work of another team that began to form mid-20th century to pioneer a new field, in this case, cybernetics.   Warren Sturgis McCulloch, a neurophysiologist who once worked as a doctor at Bellevue, partnered with Walter Pitts, a sort of prodigy of logic, who penniless and homeless, attended, unregistered, Bernard Russell’s visiting lectures at the University of Chicago, and then dropped an annotated copy of The Logical Syntax of Language in Rudolf Carnap’s lap, causing Carnap to search for him for months so that he may teach him.   McCulloch and Pitts tried like Leibnitz to model a calculus, in this case the “all-or-none” character of nervous activity.

I find in this work, perhaps like Gregory Bateson, an opening to try to understand, as his daughter put it in a preface of his Steps to An Ecology of Mind, “that interface between the realm of mind and physical reality.”     Again, the endless debate of body or mind, or nature or nurture is not what is of interest here. What is of interest is the question of their mapping, of the way signs are socially signaled and logically structured, and move and are moved by the biophysical properties of which they are biochemically constituted and perceptually mediated or categorically sensed.

In other words, my interest is slightly different than the thrust towards personalized or precision medicine.    My concern in that initiative is that rather than focus on ecological stresses leading to disease, we are obsessed to sequence genomes to identify risky molecular variants probably responsible for phenotypic diseases. In that mad rush to compute against standardized human genomic reference sets, I can’t help but wonder if we may in fact unwittingly find ourselves reproducing the very environment straining the diversity of life into the bred artifices of a few well-funded and good-intentioned scientists.   Are we restraining our ability to adapt to our environmental stresses in expecting nature to conform to our prevailing cognitive maps of it?

More sinister, albeit likely innocently sinister, than that, is it possible we may be investing in these very diseases we claim we wish to alleviate?   That is, while we may be hedging against their risks, are we necessitating a demand for disease to satisfy the blossoming market supply of patented tests and drugs promising miracles?

Take that autoimmune disorder I have, Hashimoto’s Disease, for example.   AbbVie, a company specializing in immunology, sells Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone I take to replace the natural one that is all out of balance in my body. Last quarter alone, AbbVie made 188 million dollars selling it; in the last nine months they made 561 million off it.   In total, their worldwide sales just last quarter were $5.944 billion, up 18.4 percent year-over-year.    To put that in perspective, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK) entire budget for all of 2015 was $1.749 billion, a 0.02% increase from the previous year.

Disease rakes in big money.   And companies like AbbVie will protect their interests, to the extent of trying to hide the harms of their drugs.   Yes, people are fighting back, and the ongoing development of ClinicalTrials.gov is one response to do something about it.   Yet, it’s a political minefield, because funding agencies are then also forced to account for their funding portfolios, be that in citations or products like patents.    They don’t necessarily want to be caught having funded trials with null effects, for instance.   Of course, this itself, as anyone in academia knows, is a self-spiraling audit game, where registering in ClinicalTrials.gov or a similar registry will itself likely lead to a citation that counts on one’s CV reported to administrators.

If C. Wright Mills were alive today, he might write a new edition of Power Elite to describe this interplay between industry-science-government.   For instance, he and his followers may try to trace the career of someone like Tom Insel who recently left National Institute of Mental Health to work for Google Life Sciences.   Google, or now Alphabet, wants to use their technology to detect when someone is slipping into mental illness, whether through their search history, shopping habits, email and social media habits, or their very speech habits.   What they don’t say, or I couldn’t find where they say, is what they’d do if they detect this.

If someone loses the capacity for dialogue as Hölderlin began to as he became Scardanelli and spoke in poetic monologues lacking deictic context or syntactic coherence, will they do as his once roommates Hegel and Shelling did, abandon him to a sympathetic stranger that hosted him as an isolated mad hermit whose only solace was a borrowed piano?   One, or should I say I, find it perplexing that just as Hegel found fame in his dialectic positively straining the spirit in a universalized truth in the beauty of a formal idea, and Shelling was fading behind Hegel’s shadow as he sought to reconcile the negation of nature through the positivism of idealism by undertaking a history of mythology, Hölderlin became captive to the echo chambers of a self consciousness that detached itself from its here and now in its grasp for a self-contained idea of itself.

That example may suggest prescribing and insuring patients wear health-tracking wristbands or download apps to track and feedback their every move through the filter of formal algorithms may backfire in isolating them within some diseased identity they unwittingly slipped into.   Rather than reconnecting them to the world and its inhabitants through meaningful talk or interaction, it makes them hyperaware of their every sensation, of their every thought, of their every response, and further disconnects them from anything but that self contained in that critical gaze of some technocrat’s authority.

And that, to return after my long digression, is the problem with failing to understand the ecology of the mind: one begins to create new identities by amalgamating particular expected behaviors and filtering them through automated technical applications.   We tend to believe more in the validity of our ideas – our knowledge – than we do those shifting fluctuations of our actual bodies through them.   When they don’t exactly correspond as we’d expect, we get nervous, that malady of Columbus’s heirs.