fasting, fungi & fractals, Day 4
A few words about methodology
As a PhD student, I found it fascinating to learn what counts as scientific (valid) knowledge and what doesn’t. Individual experiences, unmeasurable phenomena, emotional responses, and feelings are commonly not considered valid forms of knowing.
Yet, research has increasingly shown that what we consider to be proper knowledge is only a limited representation of reality. John Verveake refers to this way of knowing as “propositional knowing.” It is a knowing-that, a knowing of the map. Iain McGilchrist describes in his best-seller The Master and His Emissary how the left hemisphere embraces this form of knowing. It is a master of abstraction, constantly breaking things into their parts. Moreover, even when limited in perception, the left hemisphere is always confident that it does know. It is neither open to change nor ambiguity or uncertainty.
Contrary, the right hemisphere, as McGilchrist points out, is relational. It sees things in context, its focus is open, and it lives in an embodied world. The world, to the right hemisphere, is never fully known. McGilchrist argues that the left hemisphere became dominant in our society and is the foundation for the mechanical, materialist paradigm that is hyper-rational, reductionist, and certain and seems to cause many of the problems in the Anthropocene. Yet, the goal is not to become a right-hemisphere-society but instead to find a balance between the two.
The greatest challenge in harnessing different ways of knowing to see more clearly and act on my understanding is the mind-body split. The mind-body split tells us that the world consists of mental maps divorced from the territory. The root of this split is often associated with Descartes. His famous quote “I think, therefore I am” represents his conviction that all we are, all that matters, are our thoughts.
Balancing the hemispheres
Fortunately, cognitive science has been unpicking the flaws of mind-body dualism. Embodied cognition acknowledges that the brain is embodied, meaning that the brain is informed by the body and the sensations it experiences. The most meaningful ways of knowing come from what Verveake refers to as participators knowing. This way of knowing relates to our sense of being connected and in a dialogue with reality. It is an embodied experience of being an active agent in the world and results from a deep sense of attunement with our environment.
The sociologist Hartmut Rosa refers to this as being in resonance with our environment. The term resonance is taken from physics and commonly describes a subject-object relationship as a vibrating system in which both sides mutually stimulate each other. Being in resonance with our environment means that we are stimulated (or touched) by our environment, and we stimulate (or touch) our environment in return. It’s a reciprocal way of being in relation.
As Vervaeke and Rosa argue, losing this form of knowing loses connection to the world and reality. To reconnect and tap into embodied knowing, we need to tap into profound presence and aliveness, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow. Flow offers a sense of deep participation and oneness with the world. And that’s what we need for the transition towards the Ecocene.
At this point, I have no idea of how to tap into this flow. According to the flow expert Jamie Wheel, flow requires that we are at the edge of our skill level, we have to feel like active agents, contributing to something greater than ourselves. I don’t recall hearing how to live in a constant state of flow throughout the day. Yet, I am curious if it is possible to tap into this deeply reciprocal state of connection with my environment.
Because of this, my aspiration for the 108 days (and beyond) is to find the sweet spot between my hemispheres. To engage in propositional knowledge, in facts and data, and embodied knowledge to attune with my environment through experimenting and experiencing what I learn (for example, through the practice of fasting).
If you would like to stay informed about how the experiment evolves, you can join me here ↓