Am I a community? No really, am I a multiplicity –a set of folded up tendrils ready to spring into action at the slightest provocation? I suppose I should have suspected something, but when they’re always there, you get used to them –it’s hard enough to smell your own breath, let alone notice appendages. And anyway they’re kind of abstract… Not the appendages, you understand –they’re real enough- but the viewpoint.
Take the average pencil. Unless you are a solipsist, it is something anybody can use, and yet if I decide I need it to add up a column of figures, say, then it suddenly becomes a part of my brain. And just like that I have a tendril, an ancillation, however briefly.
Or, to ice the cake, how about a collaboration with friends or colleagues to solve a problem? Does my brain have to stay confined behind my eyes, or can it reach for things? It can’t know everything, so does using something in its environment to solve an otherwise irremediable problem still count as its own activity? I mean, where does my mind stop? Of course at some point it may be hard to continue to call it my mind -and yet if I’m using the data and learning from it, then why not?
Anyway, my ever expanding brain asks if books count as appendages. They are part of its Umwelt, so are they also a part of its purview, however tenuously? And if so, how about other people…? Am I –hopefully as an agent of my mind- therefore, in fact, the world…? Whoa. You see why it’s so hard to dismiss solipsism out of hand…? Whose world, then, is it?
Even to think about that is to ride a bucking horse. Perhaps a safer question would be to ask whether or not we are all interconnected. Whether or not we are all interdependent. But even there, at some stage, the boundaries of mind just become too complicated to manage. The warp and weft of the pattern too Byzantine to decipher no matter how compelling the epiphany.
It’s at times like this, that the concept of the ant-hill mind begins to surface –begins to demand corroboration. I therefore decided to keep my ears eavesdropped and my brain alert to nuance that I might otherwise have missed. After all, madness is only that if it is judged so by another.
I wanted to check it out a bit before I confessed my thoughts, however -you can’t just go up to someone and, even with a lengthy prologue, ask them whether or not they think your brain is everywhere.
I got an opportunity to suss it out at a busy local bakery. Normally I avoid bakeries –there is just too much temptation as soon as you walk through the door: the smell of fresh bread, and newly iced buns… All out on display where you can see, but not touch them. I could, however, with my newly discovered mental powers –I reached out and fingered a few cookies, then licked the icing off a large bun with my brain. It even snuck up on a loaf and took a big bite through the still warm crust. Everybody thought I was just standing there waiting to buy something, until they saw me blushing.
There was a very attractive woman standing just in front of me in the line and she must have noticed a few people staring at me so she turned around to look. The problem with an invisibly-reaching brain is that it becomes so enmeshed in the reachee that it often forgets to turn off the emotion that goes with the reacher –glutton guilt in this case.
I think I discovered something very important in that moment: evolution is fond of exaptation –it makes do with a perfectly good response for one emotion and uses it for other stuff as well. I now realize that blushing for glutton-thoughts, cannot easily and without closer questioning, be differentiated from lust-blushing. Of course, if my brain hadn’t been so quickly enamoured with the buns behind the counter, it may well have reached elsewhere, but it had slowed with age and so I felt like yet another victim of fake news.
And as soon as the woman turned to face me, every eye in the place seemed to have read at least the first few lines of that news article, and it had clearly fit with their confirmation biases. Every lip smirked, and every forehead wrinkled, although I thought I noticed a couple of congratulatory concurrence winks of support from two young men sitting near the window –but I couldn’t be sure. The mood in the room was stiff with anticipation, and my brain, clearly unprepared for the mix-up, slapped a smile on my face –the last resort of the cornered guilty.
For one agonizing moment I felt accused by the woman’s battle hardened eyes and a mouth clearly accustomed to a quick but withering rebuke. And my brain? It was safely back inside the confines of my skull, peering out from beneath the ocular ridges like someone calmly watching a news program and figuring it’d let me deal with the headlines this time.
But as soon as she saw me, her face softened like a visitor to an old folks home and her eyes welcomed my blush as if I should be proud that I could still manage a few carnal thoughts. And as if she herself was proud that she could still awaken desire in someone so close to the end.
My brain briefly reached out, intoxicated with her perfume, but I managed to restrain it from a further grab at the last moment. I don’t think she noticed the lunge though because the smile never left her face. I could tell she was trying to put me at my ease when she pointed at some of the baked goods on seductive display behind the glass of the counter.
“Great looking buns, eh?” she said, oblivious to the double entendre as she turned to order them from the clerk.
With great effort, I held my brain back, and when my turn came, ordered a dozen muffins that it hadn’t licked. I’m beginning to think I can’t take it anywhere without a leash.