As readers of this blog or my recent The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together know, I have long been concerned with the psychological and spiritual damage the world view I call Dismissive Materialism does to people. The idea that there is no inherent meaning or purpose to the universe, that we are just here by pure accident of zillions of physical particles and physical forces bumping into each other since the meaningless Big Bang, means that we humans have no inherent meaning or purpose, only the imaginary ones we are caused to invent by our biology and physiology. I find Dismissive Materialism pretty depressing.
All seriousness aside, however, sometimes we need to have a little fun with Dismissive Materialism.
Back in 1992, Tom Greening, psychotherapist, poet and editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology sent me one of his poems, A Single Case Study, that played with Dismissive Materialism (although I hadn’t coined that term yet) in an amusing way, and which inspired me to write a poem in return. Greening’s poem and my I Am Stuff response were discovered by me a couple of days ago during an archeological dig. (Archeological dig is a high-class way of saying my wife was making me clean up my office) Greening gave me permission to publish his poem here, although he did add the condition that after I made the first million dollars from it we would then split the second million dollars equally….. 😉
A SINGLE CASE STUDY
I am an anomalous surge,
A bioelectromagnetic burst.
Study me with EEG topographic mapping
(a great advance over phrenology),
ferret out my subtle energies,
record the markers of my emotion,
sift my positive and negative ions
for signs of virtue,
and measure the build-up and collapse
of my electric dipoles
while I indulge my mood swings.
I’ll gulp down any placebo,
ignorant as I am of
When you’ve done with
the biofeedback stress profiling
please give me copies of the charts and graphs
to frame and hang over the fireplace
so on cold nights when my current flickers
I can remember who I am.
What came to me was the following:
I AM STUFF
In case I get lonely
Or too spectral, too wispy
I can believe in my brain,
I’ve never actually seen my brain, of course,
But they – we know what authorities they are –
Say they know all about it.
Lonely? Just a little serosomething imbalance
Between the thingamabob nucleus
And the ascending reticular tract.
A few little molecules can fix that up.
Sad? Nothing to it, really.
No existential angst,
No psychodynamic dramas,
Nothing to face or fight or philosophize about,
When a little applied electric current
Can whisk all that grief away!
Meaning? Purpose? Lack of purpose?
All states of the neurons,
Organized by speeding chemical messengers.
Give them a few more years of R and D,
And we’ll have meaning states brewed to order.
Me lonely? Come, come now. Can a hemisphere be lonely?
A caudate nucleus? A rhinencephalon? A hippocampus?
Me, my self, my soul?
All out of fashion now, gone away
Into a cold, solid, material universe.
Unfeeling stuff, really, when you get down to basics.
Out of fashion?
Try a shot of neuro-humero-physio-enkephalon brew.
You’ll feel all right!
While entropy breaks me – stuff – “me” – down
And we fade into the unfeeling night.
Charles T. Tart