Monday, February 15, 2016

On Therapeutic Supersomatics

The following refers to Thomas Hanna's conception of somatics. Read about it here:
Organismic bodies, that is, those which are capable, in their immediate environments, of producing 'copies' (or 'versions,' iterations) of each of their volatile parts, that is, those which are expended in the motion of life. This notion of indeterminate 'immediacy' tends to inform the perception of a "body as a dynamic whole" strongly; ultimately, we expect every organism to die, so its historical wholeness is not complete in the sense that it will forever continue to reproduce its vital elements.
We seem to have come upon a choice in possible delineations of "bodies," in the sense relevent to this piece, i.e. the every day somatic sense of one's whole body, referred to both in theories of dance and in pop songs. One branch leads towards a focus on the immediacy of the organism's capability to reproduce itself, taking into account energetic and geometric/functional aspects of its whole home. It happens to be that for most life, whether autorophic or not, the limit of production is ultimately the sun's power output, or perhaps more precisely, the flow of energy that occurs when sunlight filters into chlorophylous bodies (again bodies, but of far less complexity than human ones). We can then speak of the "immediacy" in terms of daily power throughput.
Another branch is to mention the expected eventual death of the organism, which has a certain theoretical elegance over the other branch; there is no need to awkardly wield traditionally set-theoretic math by relating an organism to its "total free energy" whether or not it is measured by any organism in the system. Mentioning the organism's historical partialness does not however make the resolution sharp; it just reminds us that there are some components in every organism currently being used/expended that may never be replaced or resynthesized.
These two branches may be travelled freely back and forth as anyone sees fit, to form a shifting description of organismic life.
All this theoretical biology behind, we can define a "superbody" as simply many organismic or subjective bodies which acknowledge one another in some way. It is a literal "coplex" in that it is an evolving system of contacting parts, their motions mutually affecting one another. However, it is not again a "body" in the sense just described. In fact, when organisms "wear out," there is no necessity that they will be reformed, that is, that "new versions" will replace them due to the whole motion of the cosmos. Species go extinct; genotypes disappear from living motion. The structure of DNA does not engender itself; life does that. Furthermore, we have absolutely no basis on which to assume that the whole of the biosphere will die, the way we do with organisms. Indeed, it hasn't yet. It takes much more sophisticated and precise theory about cosmology to predict the eventual exhaustion of all living motion. To see this: For if we don't refer to that theory, what's to say Earth won't just head down some wormhole into another universe which is "less advanced," in the sense of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and to continue this reincarnation eternally? We must look farther out into the cosmos than Earth to predict complete death.
We have then, no reason to assume a subjectivity emerges from the coplexity of superbody in the same way it does from the coplexity of the body. So whatever theories and practices of body we have discovered and used, ways of generalizing them to superbodies are not clear, and we should first examine what aspects of the body are involved in control of it. Perhaps it'd be advantageous to find a relation between the mathematics of the organism, and those control schemes that have been observed in social organisms. A monogamous, two- or three-child family will be large enough to form a clear model.
The subject necessarily occurs on a sort of "surface" of the whole organism. Awareness feels itself as an interface with the "outside." There is, too, the possibility of interfacing between insides, at least in big mammalian bodies like ours, which become aware of bodies-within-the-body, that is, organs, such as the beating of the heart, or the use of the tongue, the grumbling of the stomach. These are again felt as closed surfaces, that is, geometrically without border. [And here, classic modern topology has suddenly become of great use: The project of a complete classification of such surfaces, up to deformations which preserve access (and inaccess), was completed long ago. We can notate them using just two integer parameters. In fact, the actual bodily situation is simpler, because algebro-topological torsion is completely foreign to somatic experience. The ocular mind, of course, finds non-orientable geometries amenable and harmonious, having been made familiar with the phenomena of optics, but the motions implies by torsion connote bodily pain. It seems to me this is a consequence of the geometry of the universe, the fact that there is no plane of complete reflective symmetry; at least I have not come into contact with one. Projective geometry would be appropriate for somatics along that plane in such a mirrorsphere, as one would experience the right and the left parts as precisely one part. Here I'm referring to the third person as well: "what went in to the plane of symmetry as left and right" become one in the first person. Multiple subjectivity is likewise foreign, as would occur as the subject moves out of the mirror. The basic intuitive objection to torsion in bodily homologies is the distinction between left and right sides of the body, or any of its chiral parts, at least in bilateral somatics]
Losing focus on these inner bodies, or parts, one experiences the body as an undifferentiated whole, a "simple extended substance," as philosophers used to like putting it. Focusing first on the mouth, then anus, and tubing in between, one finds oneself a torus, corresponding to a gastrocentric mode of somatics.
Relax and lose focus, be present with your self, and allow the hole to fade.
We can now notice our nostrils, fusing continuously into our whole ventilation system between the lungs and open air. It is only by third person inspection of lungs that we find a branching pattern of tori with increasing numbers of holes as we branch our awareness further towards the inner surface of the lungs, though our nervous system does not penetrate far enough to put more than 1 or 2 handles on the "normal whole" bodily sphere. Discounting the septum and closing the mouth, one finds still just a sphere, ultimatley, with the lungs a cup depressed within the open nervous dermis.
Lose focus and come to wholeness. Now we focus on our skin to the edge of available ocular resolution, to reveal that "all flesh is like grass." We imagine millions of pores and cracks in the skin-matter, making it seem rather inaccurately conceived of as a sphere. Indeed, we can now postulate the body as a many holed torus, "in truth." It is not, however, the case that these cracks can be felt; touch a finger to your skin, or something smaller. Move the point of contact the smallest amount you can visually confirm. Was there a gap of sensation as the motion occurred? No. The quality of contintuity will most certainly vary with the nerve density of the tissue, but the continuity does not "rip" anywhere. It is also not the case that there is a true figure-ground dichotomy of body-matter and "hole matter," and in fact we find that these visual complements are formed alike by patterns of clustering cells, which again would appear, under microscope, as little bodies, also with porous surfaces. Assuming a sequence of finer resolutions approaching quantum mechanical limits, we find that this roughness of the imaged "body surface" never disappears, only morphs into fuzziness at atomic scales and below, the common ground being emergence of geometrically "sporadic" phenomena.
Relax and let a deep breath out. Come away from the cosmic, back to wholeness.
The point I'm trying to focus on here is the point of focus: where you focus it matters. When we are least focused on any part, and the whole coheres as a "simple whole," we can focus on the quality of wholeness. Re-focusing elsewhere, we find this same quality is present at every point of focus, ocurring as the somatic ground for parts to emerge upon, or in. The body partitions itself not by dividing and destroying the whole, but by resynthesizing the whole-as-part-collection using an abstract framework - specifically, it is focus on many points of focus in parallel - "This hand-figure on everything-else, AND/OR this otherhand-figure on everything-else, AND/OR these foot-figures on everything-else, AND/OR ... " etc. Such expressions fit poorly in linearly ordered text, for the claim is that there is no order to their expression.
Every way we can partition ourselves, it would appear there is some definite volume involved. Yet every partition only adds subinterfaces to the whole, hence does not allow a continuous 3-dimensional reality to form. Closed surfaces are only ever turned into many "smaller versions of themselves" in mutual contact, at least insofar as they remain closed compact surfaces.
There may indeed be some "inner dimensions" of feeling, such as those apparent when sensing warmth or tension emanating from within. However, it is not clear how far these sensations are hooked up to any regulatory apparatus, as is this obvious case in the dermal sense-motor network, and even the awareness along the surface of the esophagus. Lacking this clear and persistent self-feedback, such "emanating" or diffusing sensations can be distinguished from somatics as explored by Thomas Hanna and myself. Somatics is not a complete theory of consciousness.
Having framed organisms as surfaces, it's now natural to think of superorganisms as "products of surfaces," but not just abstract products, rather multiple distinguished surfaces situated within a larger structure to begin with. Placing the environmental structure as ground for the figures of the superorganism's constituents, we can consider the combined surface with an abelian algebraic framework, so that the number of subjects is equal to the first Betti number. Assuming subjects don't "cross," and are sufficiently aware of one another, we have this as a superorganismic invariant across the perspectives of the subjects involved. When organisms stay in contact but their subjectivities disappear to one another, a "rip" occurs in the cybernetic structure and the former superbody "breaks." Note that such traumas in no way alter the raw coplexity of the system; it merely becomes less aware.
The natural economic topology of bodily motions then suffices to determine how mechanical control is exerted by the superbody participants upon one another. "Raw" classical mechanics can in no way predict the whole evolution of the system, but can completely describe each interface action to the participants, up to the limit of resolution. You can see this by meditating upon how you learned to type. The keyboard has a very static resolution built in, so that any forceful enough depression upon the "surface" of the board will result in a linear symbol sequence which can be translated between machines and organisms, a faithful recording of the motion of the interface. Many more examples can be thought of. Whenever material is organized into human useable products, somatics is ultimately involved, allowing construction of narratives solely in terms of tangible and abstract efforts, and it is by tracing the somatic history that we abstract "economic actions" and their resultant tangible-abstract "products." Automating the processes of organization blurs such histories, which may have profound cybernetic implications in itself.
We have a way to think of one another, as surfaces within a common surface, and a way to think of how those surfaces "touch." The superorganism emerges as clearly as this continued touching tends toward some "function," a phenemenon whose presence at least can be agreed upon by all participants, out of sheer necessity: it is in some way powerful, potentially useful or dangerous. A military victory is an obvious example of such functions: All the soldiers, whether victorious or defeated, agree out of practical necessity on the outcome of the battle, if not the fate of the war.
A less violent and more fundamental example is the "function" of a family. To cite an empirical example: family roles are iconized in American and British (at least) television sitcoms, and through their fictional coplexity, the family is hyperrealized as a persistent superorganismic entity. In these family sitcoms, the camera always orients itself around the main web of tensions and accords that arises between regular characters. This shifting web "is" the superorganismic "soma," in reality a plurality of minds acknowledging one another and coplexing.
In the same way as we can consider the control we exert over our individual physiques, we can ask what control we exert over the collective physique. The essential logic of therapeutic somatics is unaltered, so long as we phrased as it only in terms of signal and response. If I have tension in my neck and can't fully relax it, I have lost some amount of control there, or perhaps never had it. If somebody holds my arm down, I have lost some amount of control there. If my nervous system degenerates, I lose control. If people tie me down and give me depressant drugs, I lose control.
It is clear that human superorganisms can sustain only so much violence before they stop functioning as superorganisms, rather devolving into a mere population of (perhaps hostile) coinhabitants. Hence one's control over the collective physique does not increase forever with one's willingness to use force on coparticipants. It is also clear that control is completely lost if one has no will to use force at all, as in the typical organismic case (although "will" is applied awkwardly to plants, it does mechanically analogize).
Therefore signal languages, the corresponding cybernetic schemes, thoughts and emotions must be taken into account in supersomatics, as these tend to have irreducible roles in the methods of control. A modern example is the boot camp drill sergeant. The psychomechanics simply don't work the same if he or she doesn't keep up a certain veneer of strictness.
In the same way then, as we can seek to come to a desirable understanding of our bodies, we can seek to come to a desirable understanding of the superbodies we participate in, so that their quality is good for all subjects, so that "function is enhanced," to speak with the modern jargon.
This practice may scale up arbitrarily with the underlying logic, as one can proceed to find biological coplexes at all scales up to the whole planet. We see that this action of "scaling up" provides an ecosomatic understanding of the biosphere, as interfacing beings within a matrix of their own arrangement, the "whole Gaian superbody." I again stress my opinion that the whole biosphere is indeed not a subject, not a "true organism," as Lovelock would have it. It can, however, be understood as a "true" superorganism, to the extent that its pieces are aware of one another and exert mutual control.
I think this stream of thought and feeling offers great promise. Starting from partnerships toward the family, and extending to so conceived political bodies to ecosystems, the logic of therapeutic somatics may have radical ability to alter the course of history, by tending towards blurring and eventually eliminating the lines between human identity and biological identity in general.

An interesting linear question ocurred while typing, when I couldn't decide on what verb to use when describing participation in somatics.
Does doing somatics involve thinking, or feeling? It doesn't delineate. There is an irreducibly unexplainable aspect to it, always. Don't waste your time trying to say "what it is," because it has already changed by the time you're done saying it.
"THE STRUCTURE. DOESN'T. DO THAT." The body doesn't delineate itself. Probably, nothing does or can; it has always been an idealistic pipedream. It does however, become ground for parts, which appear, visually, delineated in their form and function. There is a trope springing from explorations in visceral horror, which in some way relates to this. Each part appears as a powerful mechanism unto itself, but the whole network of control between them feels eerily uncertain. "What if the arm was left to its own devices? What if my constant exertion of force upon each part is the only thing that keeps them in check?"
The piece of mass media that inspired this particular entry was the sitcom "Good Times," the 12th episode of the first season. The relevant characters are mother, father, and children. The father has become stressed out and abrasive, to the increasing dysfunction of the family and detriment of the furniture. The mother and children form on one side, worried that he has hypertension. There is a chilling moment in which the mother experiences loss of control over the father, after which he continues to escalate in his rage towards interpersonal violence.  Finally, on the cusp of a further escalation, she yells in desparation, stop, and he stops. Soon, the father/husband reveals something of the psychospiritual knot he's in. This conduit re-established, and the signal having been allowed to propagate throughout the family, gradually the tensions begin to resolve, and the rest of the family is restored to their proper authority over the father. They get him to a hospital which allows a revealing moment of hyperreal cultural interface between the Black family and the white doctor, resolving in the reassertion of working class blackness upon the cinematic space. The doctor's ultimate advice was the imperative "relax." It occured to me at this point that therapeutic somatics might be extended between so conceived political bodies.
 An irreducible component in this fictional mechanical example is the mutual familial love on all sides. One thing I genuinely enjoy about family sitcoms is how little tendency they have to rationalize family dynamics. The best writers know when their audience will settle for sentiment.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your entry. Evocative passages along with Buckminster Fulles-esq structural-functional contemplations.

    It seems to me that what you described/define as a SuperBody corresponds to a quadrant of the AQAL Matrix, the map of consciousness featured in Ken Wilber's teaching of the SuperHuman Operating System (SHOS) -- in particular, the Lower Left quadrant of that matrix: "I" embedded in "we".

    a way of viewing the SuperSoma, conceptually/intuitively

    Integrating the AQAL Map and Experience of Holarchy (ref: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality)