The Gospel According to The Way of the Elbow

“No news is good news.”

This statement articulates the relationship that most of have with our bodies. So long as nothing hurts, then good enough. Whether or not we realise it, most of us experience life like talking heads; “immortal souls” ensconced in little orbs, roving around atop teetering bipedal locomotives. This is sinful. Just kidding. But it certainly represents a terribly limited way to experience the world.

It is somewhat predictable that we should have come to this condition of relative blindness. Indeed the very survival of our organism depends on our brains’ ability to triage the innumerable sensory impulses that present themselves in every instant—to notice that which seems noteworthy & to condemn all the rest into the dustbin of unworthy sensory impressions. This capacity is expedient & essential: imagine if we were to assign no more attention to the stripèd tiger than the intricately hanging orchid behind its ear, or the smell of the rain. If the beast were hungry, we wouldn’t have the chance to make such a mistake again no matter how pleasing the petrichor. And neither would posterity: there are few sensual-ecstatics swimming in our human gene pool. Pool air is obnoxious anyway—it smells like chlorine & sounds like echoes. Rather most of us have learned to filter, triage, to discriminate our experience—winnowing away everything that is not useful & profitable.

Tradition as well as biology biases us against sensual ecstasy. As Westerners, we find ourselves born into a tradition that exalts rational processes as the plenum of human existence; “cogito ergo sum:” the simultaneous enunciation of the birth of he Western man, & his doom to a disembodied wandering through interminable labyrinths of his own intellect. And so, a very small sliver of the brain—this grand presiding ganglion behind our foreheads—becomes the extent of our identities: the neo-cortex, the center of conscious thought.

But we restrict ourselves in the most tragic way when we forget Einstein’s counsel:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

We overlook that rational thought is foremost a problem-solver. Our bellies evolved brains to outwit the vicissitudes of nature. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So likewise if we identify with his cluster of thinking neurons just behind the forehead, the world becomes an endless weft of problems. And if we can’t find any, the we will just invent them.

So what’s the answer?

First we must be fundamentally clear that that’s the wrong question. This is for the simple reason that seeking an answer presupposes a problem in the first place. It plays into the hands of the devil of intellect in its prejudice towards the old dichotomy of thinking. We perpetuate the attitude we are trying to escape if we attempt to approach the issue in these dusty terms. Einstein perceived this human tendency as well when he cautioned:

We will not solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.

Once we have relinquished the old dualistic framework, all that is left to do is enjoy it.

Only when we have stopped trying to get somewhere else can we even open to what is actually here. Grace is a result & not a method; grace is the canvas itself, not the apocalyptic scenes painted on it.

We must empty our inboxes so we can we receive the good news, like National Geographic, for instance. Or the tickle of the sun on naked skin. “I read quality periodicals in the sunshine therefore I am.”


The one with the wings is Descartes.


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