The Eighth Word In This Title Is Discorporate. It Means To Leave Your Body.

The mind and body are very closely linked. In fact, I sometimes find it hard to tell the two apart. Attribute this, perhaps, to my poor eyesight. Nonetheless, worthy philosophers, Rene Descartes and Neil Scott amongst them, have tried their darnedest to illustrate the division between the two; the former with his pronouncements on mind body duality and the latter with the back slash he placed between the words in the commission he sent me. With such stringent arguments in existence, I was left to wonder why the mind and the body have such an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship. Perhaps they are insecure.

It was with this in mind (and, indeed, body) that I devised an experiment to bring Cartesian duality to its natural extremities. Last week, I discorporated, spending one day as a cortical and cognitive entity and the other being physical and down-right manly. Like a Huxley on mescaline, I jotted down flippant observations from my altered (but not unfamiliar) states, taking a keen interest in how I then perceived the world and how it perceived me. It was hoped (and I hope still) that this investigation would be able to lay philosophy to rest and answer the question – mind or body; which makes more sense to save from a house fire?

My Day As A Mind

The first thing that one notices as a disembodied mind is one’s wardrobe. All at once you take a smaller size and look better in hats. This sets one at an instantaneous disadvantage, as you will find that most of the clothes in your wardrobe aren’t in a smaller size. It is best then to use one’s knowledge of fashion; remember, bright colours and horizontal stripes are fattening. Of course, in such a situation, you will probably find it harder to look in the mirror than usual, so you may have to rely on your own judgement. That’s all I had to blame when I hit the streets of Leamington Spa in nothing but a horizontally-barred fedora of an intense cyan.

It became clear, while traversing the pedestrian walkways, that I was much closer to the ground than usual. This gave rise to practical, as well as theoretical, problems. How was I to reach the button at the traffic lights? Luckily for me, I had once memorised a route that took in nothing but bridges and a menagerie of different types of crossing. It was not overly long before I arrived at my destination, the academic library at FULS (the Funded University of Leamington Spa).

After an hours delay (the security guard was reluctant to admit me, because I didn’t look like the picture on my membership card), I was finally able to peruse the bottom shelf of each stack. I then took some time to study the more complex writings of my intellectual forefathers. I can now say to my credit that I fully understand Wittgenstein and Popper. But to my discredit, I also understand Spinoza and Berkley. (Note to self: great minds think alike, therefore Berkley couldn’t be)

Later, I made my way to a musical concert. A group of gentlemen and a lady were playing ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Lustige Streiche’ by Mr. Strauss (R). I laughed at all the implied musical jokes; puns, sarcasm, pratfalls and, of course, slapstick from the percussion section. Talk about a German sense of humour. I found the evening immensely stimulating, but, somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to clap at the end.

Post concert, I made my way home. Some fifty feet from my door (which seemed such a great distance that day) I was accosted by what can only be described as a medium-sized group of roughs (you could alternatively call it a moderate conglomerate of hellions or an average cartel of ruffians). They pushed and scratched and bit and generally mussed me. I stood up for myself, as one must, and tried to fend them off with some barbed put downs – a great deal of which were damn near Shavian, one or two even sounded like an elderly Truman Capote. By the time they had taken all my possessions and battered me to a pulp, they were so scared that they just ran off. I went home.

And then to bed.

My Day As A Body

The first thing that one notices as a mindless body is one’s wardrobe. Sure, everything still fits, but you find it much harder to get dressed. But once you have the art mastered, a whole world of fleshy pleasures opens up to you, like a set of doors in a supermarket. The feel of velour, the tactility of chiffon, the texture of tweed. It is all one can do to wear everything one owns. This can lead to stretched socks. And the sheer sensual thrill of dressing can confuse you no end. Your whole sociological sense of ‘what is suitable to wear when’ can desert you.

It was only when I mastered my twenty-fifth stair that I realised I’d entered the gymnasium in a gabardine. A gentleman helped me into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt which read “Athletes Do It In Record Time.” From here I mastered another few flights of stairs, rowed for a duration and lifted some weight. After this I joined the group of people admiring me in the mirror.

Finding beautiful women in the gymnasium is as easy as finding a needle in a King’s Cross public toilet cubicle. And, like a needle in a King’s Cross public toilet cubicle, it’s even more likely that you will step on one unwittingly. That is how I met a beautiful woman. We were both admiring ourselves in the mirror and we bumped into one another. She was deeply attractive and every part of her body seemed to function in the way you would hope. Hers was the sort of physique that would make Michelangelo’s ‘David’ spit out his gum.

Without further ado (apart from waiting several hours and shaving), I took her to dinner at a Gallic restaurant. As my grasp of French rivalled only my grasp of English, my lady friend ordered. We indulged in all the olfactory pleasures of the day: pamplemousse (both pink and yellow), escargot, fillets de cheval, sows’ unctuous paps, the whole kitkaboodle (which was very nice). I gorged. I sunk my teeth into things which should never have teeth sunk into them. I pulled into my nose every delightful odour. My mouth, eyes and ears watered. I savoured every savoury and every sweet. And the service was impeccable. But I still couldn’t work out how much to tip.

Post meal, I took her home and made love to her, as one does.
I was very good.

And so to bed.

To surmise, in brief, what do we now think of the mind and the body? Sure, the mind can ponder the intricacies of the universe, but it has a hard time getting served in shoe shops. And maybe the body does have more fun, but it only gets about half of Woody Allen’s jokes. Now, far be it from me to suggest that Cartesian duality is wrong and that the division of mind and body is some sort of joke, but tell me, when was the last time you saw your mind out by itself? What this experiment shows (and this will be proven by repetition and graphs) is that you can only get so far with one or the other. And have you met anyone lately who didn’t have both? (All those who have been in intensive care wards recently please be quiet). I don’t want to get on Descartes’ case, I’m not qualified (no philosopher gourmet be I). Nor would I begin to suggest that there is, in fact, only one internal world and that the mind and body are connected by anything resembling a brainstem, but, before you drift to sleep, consider these words from the prophet Isaiah (11:6, if you’re interested) – “The mind will lie down with the body, but it would have a hard time getting up by itself.”

Stephen O’Hagan