Friday, 13 February 2009

905 - Living In the Now?

I've been reading Susan Greenfield's new book on identity in the 21st Century, and am intrigued by the arguments she makes for the similarities between childhood and schizophrenic minds.

Her take is that schizophrenia shares, with childhood, symptoms of 'living in the moment', due to malfunctioning and undeveloped prefrontal cortexes respectively. She notes that excessive openess to other people and experiences, and a failure to distinguish between reality and dream sensations, or to block sensations out, are common to both.

These are aspects I recognise, to a greater or lesser degree, codified or in search of an explanation, from my own religious experiences, though I'm less disposed to label them negative. I find some grounds for this in Hugh Brody's analysis of the hunter-gatherer mind as intuitive and focussed on immediate experience, on decision-making on the hoof. After all, the whole religious quest is summed up in many traditions as 'living in the now' (Jesus' 'Why worry?' speech is an example) - and Brody argues that hunter gatherers have not been prised from this mindset by the dominant, farmer alternative.

It seems to me that anyone serious about exploring their spirituality or religion must investigate their experiences in the light of the latest neuroscience and psychology. The fear is that these disciplines can over-medicalise, and that mental health, especially, is sensitive ground for our society. I therefore approach the task with some trepidation, particularly because it makes sense to write about these explorations here, in public.

But not to explore the deepest parts of yourself? To put reputation ahead of art? of life?


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