Wednesday, May 22, 2019

More on proprioception

More from John Jerome's book, Stone Work, on the subject of proprioception. Page 148 

Wading on through fallen leaves, I make one more small mental obeisance to proprioception, to the entire sensory universe that gives me a self to take out for walks like this. My head tells me this is true – that the sense are where the self comes from – but it is a touch too psychological, and therefore fuzzy, for my tastes. I’m more comfortable with the harder edges of physiology and physics. Ah, that’s it: proprioception is where physics and physiology come together. That must be why it fascinates me so. It’s the tool that helps you get the physics right, the means by which you get the pleasure out of physics. It is the internal rigging that locates the body in time and space, the three-dimensional internal map of the body that redraws itself, realigns itself, with every move you make.
I’ve been thinking and writing about proprioception for ten years now, in one forum or another, and keep failing to get its wonders adequately set down, the impossible riches brought to us in those mysterious moments when information turns into experience. Can’t find a way to say it hard enough, can’t sing that clear, clean line.

My frustration reminds me of Lewis Thomas’s essay ‘On Embryology’ in The Medusa and the Snail. He is speaking of the process that at some point switches on a single cell and allows it to grow into the brain. ‘No one has the ghost of an idea how this works,’ he says, ‘and nothing else in life can ever be so puzzling. If anyone does succeed in explaining it, within my lifetime, I will charter a skywriting airplane, maybe a whole fleet of them, and send them aloft to write one great exclamation point after another, around the whole sky, until all my money runs out.’

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