Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The mind and the arse

Another unformed idea that we will probably never follow up: There is a mysterious connection between the arse and the mind.

Background: Freud talks somewhere about phases in very early childhood development and in connection with this develops a typology of characters (people whose development has been arrested at one stage or another?). One phase is the anal. When I first read this I thought it was just the product of a truly perverse imagination. And then the recollection of some very odd bowel-related behaviour in my own youth (I will spare you the details – it was not nice).

Only now has it occurred to me that there might be some connection between being anal and my inability to stop this obsessive grappling with my ideas – holding onto them instead of letting them drift away as ideas naturally tend to do in order to take pleasure in less intellectual pursuits. Is this cogitation not repulsively anal? Was there, in the end, no need for Descartes to resort to the ridiculous idea of the pineal gland to link up the mind and the body because, in truth, they were one and the same thing – the mind being not the body in general but the part at the greatest poetic distance from the lofty seat of ratiocination: the arse?

Hang on, though. Am I not according some priority to the arse, as if it comes first and the mind is some outgrowth of it – some hideous protruberance? But, as any mother knows, the arse in its original form is an orifice with no self-control. It poses no obstruction to the natural evacuation of the bowels, hence the importance of wrapping the loins of the infant well when it is taken to the supermarket. If the natural evacuative process is interrupted, this only starts occuring later on. And could this not be the work of the nascent mind? Could this nether region not be the place where the mind first flexes its mental muscles – the first muscle being the sphincter – feeling for the first time its ability to go against nature, to arrest the otherwise relentless flow of nature?

Of course there can be no biological determinism here. At best, the anal sphincter can only be a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for the evolution of the mind, as we can see from another bearer of that important ring of muscle: the goldfish, which, if we are to judge from its behaviour, is a stranger to philosophical reflection.

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