PSI-14: Post Stroke Impressions No. 14
An Experience-based Note on How a Left Brain Stroke Changes ‘Cognition’
(Explaining why it is called ‘A Stroke of Insight’)
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
Quite simply, a left-brain stroke wipes out the concept of ‘being’ that comes from ‘naming’. If I can’t recall a person’s name in my post-stroke cognitive mode, it is because the cognitive technique of ‘understanding things’ by way of ‘being’ has ‘dropped out’ or at least been seriously impacted.
All is not lost, however, as relational cognition INCLUDES being based cognition, as I have written about in my series of ‘Post-Stroke-Impression’ notes. The ‘three levels of understanding’ model of Erich Jantsch covers that ground; i.e. nature, nurture and flow, … which he illustrates in terms of a person on land, swimming in the flow, and then included as a flow-feature. These three modes of cognition in which level 1 (flow) includes levels 2 and three while level 2 includes level 3, … makes total sense to me.
Having a left-brain stroke ‘knocks out’ level 3 ‘being-based’ cognition. This is a ‘biggie’ for Western culture stroke-experients since Western culture makes level 3, the ‘being’ level, the ‘highest’ level; i.e. it is culturally given the primary role in shaping cognition of ‘reality’.
For example, prior to the stroke, I knew my family and friends etc. ‘by name’. By this I mean that the uttering of the name of a friend or child, aunt etc. would trigger recall of ‘who they were’. That stopped (or was seriously weakened) with my stroke. This led naturally to people around me informing me of who they were talking about by way of ‘The surprise version of the game of Twenty Questions’. This game has been cited by modern physicists Geoffrey Chew and John Wheeler as the means of understanding in a world of relational flow as modern physics conceives of ‘the real world of our experience’. In other words, if one wants to understand the world as a transforming relational continuum, one cannot portray it in ‘being’-based terms; i.e. ‘being’ is imputed to the relational forms in the flow we understand as ‘humans’ by assigning ‘names’ to these relational forms, as with hurricanes or any other relational forms in the flow.
‘Naming’ is the cognitive source of the impression of ‘being’, yet there is no ‘being’ in the real world of our experience (the transforming relational continuum in which we are relational forms).
That’s why Lao Tzu and other philosophers (Wittgenstein, Nietzsche) are also pounding the table about the error of ‘being’ that we cognitively impute by ‘naming’.
So, the stroke experient experiences a loss in the cognitive imputing of ‘being’ by way of ‘names’. Of course, ‘names’ are also used to invoke understanding ‘indirectly’ as in ‘Dances with Wolves’ or ‘She who must be obeyed’ (the boss, whatever her name is). In fact, this indirect way of naming is the primary way of naming in indigenous aboriginal society which does not believe in the ‘reality’ of ‘being’ as Western culture folks are taught to believe.
This applies to ‘country names’ as well; i.e. ‘countries’ as ‘things-that-be’ are intellectual abstraction that cannot be confirmed by our real-life relational experience; e.g. when we step across an imaginary line from one country into another, we will agree that we are departing from one country and entering into another only in the presence of armed guards. If we make that crossing in the deep forest as the deer do, there are no experiential alarms to inform us of such, the concept of crossing a border belongs purely and solely to intellectual abstraction and not to real-life experience.
Note that ‘cognition’ is a pretty large grab-bag of stuff;
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
If a border guard asks us; ‘Were you aware that you just crossed an international boundary in hiking through the woods’, this sort of ‘awareness’ is pure intellectual abstraction based on a ‘belief’ in the pseudo-REALITY of ‘things-that-be’ (‘being’).
THERE IS NO ‘BEING’ IN THE REAL WORLD OF OUR EXPERIENCE OF INCLUSION IN A TRANSFORMING RELATIONAL CONTINUUM.
What I’m saying is that having a left-brain stroke of the type I have had, delivers insight through the drop out’ of the language- (name-) triggered cognition of ‘being’ so that we have an unobstructed cognitive access to understanding that is relational rather than ‘being’-based.
I have not lost the knowledge of my children and friends that I have acquired through relational experience and the senses, … which, by the way, is ‘beyond’ language. As in the fable of Rumpelstiltskin, the ‘naming’ of a person has the magical power of spinning straw into gold and/or transforming a pauper into a prince, … in Western culture, that is. We ritualistically have a high priest or Archbishop or King or Queen tap a regular person on the shoulder with the magic sword Excalibur to ‘transform him’ into a ‘knight’, by ‘naming him’ ‘Sir Galahad’, henceforth to be treated by all with princely respect beyond that due your average pauper. Abstract cognition transcends experiential cognition in Western culture. We applaud our culture for its ‘fairness’ in that any pauper has a chance to be transformed into a prince by way of ‘naming’. Just watch how Western people modify their behaviour when that dufus Oscar, is ‘named’ General Manager, or President.
Not all cultures have the custom of using naming to transform paupers into princes but Western culture has evolved this generally observed ‘magic’ procedure referred to in Western fables as transforming straw into gold. There have been ‘hold-outs’ in Western society; e.g. ‘poets’ would say; ‘What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, … however, the poets have lost a lot of influence in Western society as ‘science’ (which is full of, and in fact founded on ‘magic’ wherein ‘naming’ imputes ‘being’) has risen into its current dominant position of influence. Compare this to Taoists who point out that nature is a flow in which we are included relational forms so that we cannot use names to explain what is going on since ‘naming’ imputes ‘persisting being’ [intellectual abstraction that is ungrounded in physical relational experience].
“Indeed, nothing has yet possessed a more naïve power of persuasion than the error concerning being as it has been formulated by the Eleatics, for example. After all, every word and every sentence we say speak in its favor. Even the opponents of the Eleatics still succumbed to the seduction of their concept of being: Democritus, among others, when he invented his atom. “Reason” in language — oh, what an old deceptive witch she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.” – Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’.
“that which we are unable to capture in language, we must pass over in silence.” (“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” ) — Wittgenstein
In other words, Western culture has tipped the three levels of reality ‘upside-down’ and made level 3 (being) the highest reality, allowing level 2 as a secondary reality and totally dropping out level 1 (relational flow) which is the highest level of reality in modern physics and in indigenous aboriginal cultures. The ‘science’ that permeates Western society is a ‘belief in magic’ based mode of cognition; i.e. it puts belief in ‘being’ into an unnatural precedence over relational understanding.
That is where things stand ‘popularly’, today, … not that the poets have gone, only that ‘science’ (Newtonian being-based science) has been adopted as the primary Western culture cognitive reference for ‘reality’. So, experiencing a left-brain stroke delivers ‘insight’ that undercuts the unnatural elevating of ‘being’ to cognitive primacy in Western culture, as it needs to be undercut, so that relational cognition can resume its natural cognitive primacy.
Meanwhile, that puts the stroke experient’s relational cognitive primacy out of whack with the Western culture’s being-based cognitive primacy, and Western medicine sets out to restore the stroke experient’s ‘cognitive health’ by giving him exercises to restore his being-based cognition to its (unnatural) primacy over relational cognition. This means restoring belief in the practice of transforming paupers into princes or ‘spinning straw into gold’ by the magical act of ‘naming’; e.g. ‘by the magic of this citizenship ceremony, which includes an ‘oath’ of the type;
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
The ’independent being’ of a state is an abstract concept that arises by the magical act of ‘naming’. This magic is similarly invoked, as with transforming a pauper into a prince (spinning straw into gold) in the granting of ‘citizenship’.
In terms of the three-level cognitive hierarchy of Jantsch, the ‘being’-based citizenship ceremony is the lowest level that is meanwhile given highest level status in the Western culture cognitive valuation scheme. In nature-nurture (cognitive level 3 – level 2 terms, ‘being’ establishes the ‘innate thing-in-itself nature’ of the person (who the person really is in inside-outward asserting terms), while ‘nurture’ refers to outside-inward environmental shaping influence. For example, should we understand the tree as the product of inside-outward asserting being-based influences, or should we understand the tree as the product of outside-inward inductive shaping influences. We know that the same seedling will grow tall and straight in the forest surrounded by many other trees, while it will grow twisted and gnarly on a coastal windswept islet.
The argument as to whether nature dominates over nurture or vice versa has never been settled and divides the Western culture populace into opposing camps called ‘conservatives’ (nature over nurture) and ‘liberals’ (nurture over nature). There is a crude rule that says that society will understand the behavioural development of a child up to age 16 as nurture, but his ‘true nature’ will show through beyond age 16. The Western population has split in such cases as ‘Omar Khadr’, accused of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old. Of course, both of these cognitive choices are based on the abstract concept of ‘being’ in that the source of an action is deemed to derive from an individual ‘being’ whether or not the action was sourced from the being’s interior or whether the action of the being was induced by environmental influences the being was situationally included in.
Cognitive level 1 assumes that the person is a relational form in a transforming relational continuum, in accordance with modern physics and with indigenous aboriginal cognitive modes, so that ‘being’ never comes into it.
A few months before his death, Bohm met with a number of Algonkian speakers and was struck by the perfect bridge between their language and worldview and his own exploratory philosophy. What to Bohm had been major breakthroughs in human thought — quantum theory, relativity, his implicate order and rheomode – were part of the everyday life and speech of the Blackfoot, Mic Maq, Cree and Ojibwaj.” – F. David Peat, ‘Blackfoot Physics’
Indigenous aboriginal justice, consistent with modern physics, assumes that while actions manifest through the behaviours of individuals, individuals are not ‘independent beings’ but relational forms in the transforming relational continuum, … therefore eruptions of violence derive from relational dynamics and merely manifest through persons (relational forms in the flow). That is, there is no assumption of the human as a ‘being’, … not in the indigenous aboriginal understanding and not in the modern physics understanding, however, the assumption of ‘being’ remains the basis of the highest level cognitive mode in the Western cultural mainstream.
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To ‘recap’… this has been … An Experience-based Note on How a Left Brain Stroke Changes ‘Cognition’
(‘cognition’ is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”).
The main points I am raising, which have been ‘made clearer’ by my ‘stroke experience’ are as follows;
-1- ‘Being’ is abstraction that derives from (‘is cognitively induced by’) ‘naming’. There is nothing in the world of our natural experience that manifests ‘persisting existence’ as imputed by ‘being’ as ‘conjured’ into understanding by ‘naming’.
-2- ‘Naming’ is the Abstract Creator of Being’. In modern Western culture, the habit of using ‘naming’ to impute ‘being’ has overtaken the more realistic poetic use of names to indirectly impart relational understanding as to the basic nature of relational forms in the flow such as people. That is, ‘Dances with Wolves’ does not impose ‘being’-based understanding on the relational form in the manner of a name that ‘cannot be intuited by a web of relations’ such as ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ or ‘John Dunbar’; i.e. the fact is that names are abstractions that can ‘spin straw into gold’ or transform paupers into princes (or go the other way and reduce princesses to witches). Understanding that is not ‘grounded in experience’ but is informed by name-based cognition is the source of rising ‘incoherence’ (Bohm).
-3.- ‘Intellectual cognition’ and experiential ‘cognition’ [where ‘cognition’ is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”] are very different modes of cognition and elevating ‘being-based cognition’ into an unnatural precedence over experiential cognition is endemic in modern Western culture. In other words, there has been a pronounced cultural trend of putting intellectual cognition into an unnatural precedence over experience-based cognition. Meanwhile, as the joke goes, … there is a profound difference between giving children intellectual cognition based ‘sex education’ and experiential cognition-based ‘sex lessons’
-4- Western culture has ‘drifted away from’ grounding cognition in poetic inference, the latter being the practical means of garnering cognition of the world dynamic understood as a transforming relational continuum or ‘Heracitean flow’ as affirmed by modern physics, the indigenous aboriginal culture, Taoism, etc. Instead, Western culture has embraced ‘being-based abstraction’ as the foundational (level 3 cognitive) mode of understanding. Western science celebrates the ‘dumbing down’ of cognition from level 1 relational cognition to level 3 being-based language-and-grammar stimulated abstract cognition which falls radically short of conveying understanding of the reality of our actual relational experience. As linguist Benjamin Whorf observes, this dumbing-down in the rational (non-poetic) cognitive mode use of English becomes evident in comparing English to Hopi.
“English compared to Hopi is like a bludgeon compared to a rapier.” – Benjamin Whorf
-5- Indigenous aboriginal cultures have, to some degree, preserved level 1 relational cognition insofar as they have retained their aboriginal language and culture which makes use of ‘naming’ not to impute ‘being’ but in the ‘surprise version of the game of Twenty Questions’ to indirectly induce cognition in terms of relational reality (aka ‘the Tao’). However, observation of the residential school experience shows how swiftly aboriginal children can be converted to the ‘being’ based cognition of Western culture, without the cognition cultivating support of aboriginal culture elders who have retained their non-being-based (relational) cognitive capacities, as transpired in residential schools. This also underscores how swiftly a Western ‘scientific education’ can wean children from their natural ‘poetic’ cognitive gifts, a cognitive ‘make-over’ that is highlighted by Charles Dickens in ‘Hard Times’ in the sequence where ‘Sissy Jupe’s relational understanding of a horse is ‘put down’ by her teacher Thomas Gradgrind who insists on grounding all understanding in ‘being’-based ‘facts’ as is the way of mainstream ‘science’;
“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”
‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’
‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer. — Charles Dickens, ‘Hard Times’
-6- Examples abound as to how we (Western culture acculturated people) screw up our cognition by focusing on a ‘being’ basis as in ‘construction’ of houses, cities etc. ‘Construction’ is abstraction; i.e. the only real experience-based possibility is relational transformation. We do not ‘construct a new house or a new city. That is language-based abstraction that becomes an accepted ‘cognitive pseudo-reality’. We are relational forms within the transforming relational continuum, and as such, we do not have the power to create ‘new things that be’, but as relational forms in the transforming relational continuum, as with the hurricane in the flow, we are by our very nature, agents of transformation. The new house is exemplary of ongoing transformation in a transforming relational continuum. To use language and grammar to synthetically isolate such ‘construction’ as if it were a ‘thing-in-itself’ is being-based abstraction.
The notion of a human as a ‘being’ that ‘exists independently’ and is internally animated, making him out to be the master of his own acts is abstraction fabricated by noun-and-verb language which is in no way affirmed by our natural experience. It is a ‘religious belief’ that has been incorporated in Western (Newtonian) science which is now ‘mainstream’ in the cognitive belief habits of Western society (whether or not the ‘belief habit’ is cultivated by expediency due to the hard ‘lock-in’ of such belief habits whose ‘switching costs’ are now huge, making the costs for people to switch on an individual basis prohibitive, and due also to such belief having been so deeply ‘internalized’ that the float line to the surface of reality is permanently submerged).
“Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.
1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.” – Vatican Archives, The Catholic Catechism.
Documentaries such as David Suzuki’s ‘The Nature of Things’ episode ‘Smarty Plants’ and/or the Nova documentary ‘Slime Mold Smarts’ point to the bankruptcy of the abstract being-based notion of self-actuated ‘beings’ or ‘things-in-themselves’ [as contrasted with relational forms in the transforming relational continuum]. Since science continues to regard ‘organisms’ as ‘beings’ animated by internal equipment rather than as relational forms in the flow, the mystery only deepens as to the source of ‘intelligence’ in relational forms that ‘have no brain’ to attribute their complex behaviour that is essential to their continuing ‘existence’;
The slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a single cell without a brain, yet it can make surprisingly complicated decisions. In this animated video short, watch as a slime mold navigates through a maze and solves a civil engineering problem.” — Nova, ‘Slime Mold Smarts’
All of the above points serve to underscore the ‘folly’ of using the linguistic abstraction of ‘being’ in a foundational role for understanding the relational dynamics of nature (the transforming relational continuum) in which we are included.
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