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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Thursday, 23 May 2013
Brain and being
While reading it I was seized again with the idea of learning Latin decently; it was so strong that I could scarcely keep my attention on the book. Another example of the undiscipline of the brain.
Yet I have gradually got my brain under far better control than most people. Always haunted by dissatisfaction at the discrepancy between reason and conduct! No reason why conduct should not conform to the ideas of reason, except inefficient control of the brain. This that I am always preaching, and with a success of popular interest too, I cannot perfectly practise. It is the clumsiness of my living that disgusts me. The rough carpentry instead of fine cabinetry. The unnecessary friction. The constant slight inattention to my own rules. I could be a marvel to myself and to others if only I practised more sincerely. Half an hour in the morning in complete concentration on the living-through of the day, and I should work wonders! But this all-important concentration is continually interrupted - interruptions which weaken it; sometimes deliberately abandoned for concentration on matters of admittedly inferior importance! Strange! One can only stick to it.
It is humiliating that I cannot get through one single day without wounding or lightly abrading the sensibility of others, without wasting time and brain-power on thoughts that I do not desire to think, without yielding to appetites that I despise! I am so wrapped up in myself that I, if anyone, ought to succeed in a relative self-perfection. I aim as much from love of perfection and scorn of inefficiency as from my own happiness. I honestly think I care quite as much for other people's happiness as for my own; and that is not saying much for my love of my own happiness. Love of justice, more than outraged sensibility at the spectacle of suffering and cruelty, prompts me to support social reforms. I can and do look at suffering with scientific (artistic) coldness. I do not care. I am above it. But I want to hasten justice for its own sake. I think this is fairly sincere; perhaps not quite. I don't think I scorn people; I have none of that scorn of inferior people (i.e. of the vast majority of people) which is seen in many great men. I think my view is greater than theirs. Clumsiness in living is what I scorn: systems not people. And even systems I can excuse and justify to myself.
For some days now I have been experiencing pain and discomfort in my neck and shoulders. No apparent reason why it started. I just woke up in discomfort one morning. Re-reading what is written above I am wondering about the connection between mood and physical comfort. Is this present mood of self-analysis and self-criticism a product of my generalised sense of suffering? If we are a product of evolution by natural selection, as Mr. Darwin argued, and of which I am quite persuaded, then there is no reason to regard the brain as other than an integral part of the body. The idea that mind is 'separate' from body is patently absurd. That being the case, it seems obvious that when the body is suffering this will manifest itself in conscious experience. So, when I talk of brain-control I should really say organism-control. But that of course would necessitate lengthy preliminary exposition, and would be disturbing to many 'ordinary' people who buy my books.