Sunday, October 09, 2011

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF AIM by N.C.Surya


“It is said that we walk with our legs. No, sir, first you have a desire or need or aim to walk," says a renowned psychologist as he helps assess ourselves anew in this small but significant essay.
I walk along the road. A piece of paper slips from my hand and falls on the road. The paper is not important, and I walk by. The paper is somewhat important: I bend down and pick it up with my right hand. The right hand is hurt and is in plaster: The paper is, however, not so very important and I shrug and walk off. But it is a note on which there is an address or telephone number and I have not yet jotted them down-I dodge traffic and run hither and thither, and retrieve the paper with my left hand. On another occasion, both my hands are immobilised because I am carrying a large fragile parcel needing both hands, and a small valuable article has fallen off my pocket. I might use my toes to recover it. This is not a farfetched example. I have seen quite a few war-injured soldiers, with both hands in plaster, walking along the ward and doing many useful things with their uninjured feet, and often with a smile on their faces. Then there is the well recorded cases of prisoners of war, bound hands and feet and thrown into a cell retrieving some small object from the floor of the cell with their mouths and perhaps swallowing it, maybe a cyanide capsule.
 
This brief note draws attention to three items of value to possible human behaviour: 
1. AIM-to retrieve a piece of paper from the floor where it had fallen.
2. The number of alternate mechanisms that become available to achieve the same goal.
3. The strength of the Aim measured by the importance of the aim to the individual which determines the number of alternate mechanisms and the intensity of effort called forth.
4. It does not require a great deal of erudition for anyone to see that each one of the above actions requires innumerable physiological adjustments-to the limbs, their positions and postures; to the fine gradation of blood volume and pressure, and diameters of the blood –vessels engaged in supplying the various muscles; and the millions of neural and hormonal messages mediating all this; the levels of oxygen consumption and rates of wastage disposal. Imagine the almost devilish ingenuity involved in making everyone believe that all this would not have been possible but for a committee of specialist doctors with computerised equipment sitting inside the pockets of everyone walking on the road or working in the field. 
Let me continue: Here is a baby lying down on the mat. A coloured ball catches its attention. Watch the complicated manoeuvres the baby displays to propel itself to reach the ball., Add to this-the wriggling, twisting and twirling of fingers and toes, grimacings and gurglings, and finally screaming to involve others in the process of achieving its goal namely to get the coloured ball.
This draws attention to another important property of AIM: It transcends the individual and tends to others into its field of influence. This is probably the basic factor in leadership-the strength of aim of the leader has a field effect. This is in the nature of a vibration, much the same as a magnetic field and far transcends the merely verbal field of action. 
One afternoon I happened to be at the Cuddalore railway station waiting for a bus to Bangalore. It was to be a long wait for a train due to start a few hours later and the platform was almost bare of any traffic. Then I saw someone hopping down the platform on one leg. As he came nearer I noticed that he was a very young boy wit one le right to the thigh completely absent-perhaps amputated after some accident. He was scantily clad, and it was impossible he was up to any tricks. He did not appear to be begging. He had no stick or crutch to help him along. He had a most beatific smile on his face as he hopped along ignoring the gesture I was making of offering some coins. He was not parading a misfortune: he was exulting in the joy of a new discovery into new frontiers of movement. I had a glimpse of Krishna, the Lord of Unconditioned Joy. I also ran through my mind all that I saw and read and heard about the great scientific advances in rehabilitation and artificial limbs and the whole theory of human physiology with hardly anything human about it. I have no quarrel with technology but with the philosophy flaunted in its name whose effect is to paralyse human effort and will towards reaching out to the beyond that is implied in being a man.
I have seen a crippled child with deformed feet being able to call up enormous physiological reserves that helped her to become a very agile child with minimal surgical help ad with motivational support from parents. I have seen children with very minimal foot defects become mental and physical cripples burdened with very expensive surgical attention and a plethora of prosthetic appliances.
We glibly talk about psychological motivation forgetting the inseparable link between so-called psychological motivations and physiological mechanisms. They are not different phenomena: they are merely different facets of description of the same phenomenon necessitated by the verbal system dominating the present era of evolution. The word psycho-somatic is a hybrid monster that has existed only in the ever efflorescent nomenclature of scientific medicine. Man is psycho-somatic. The psycho-somatic split is only a tragic extension of the fates that have contrived to designate humanity as divided into two distinct species-the scientists and the laymen. The sun and stars move in their daily orbits nowadays correctly only after our astronomers have mathematically corrected their rather erratic movements! Please bear in mind that the correct movements are according to the Harvard and not Moscow scientists. If you have a so-called high blood pressure it is physical or psycho-somatic depending on the availability of the different species if specialists and their relative acceptability in the local church.  
I have met a professor of Bio-Chemistry who was engaged in doing deep research into the effects of Vit-C deprivation on human personality. Being a single minded scientist he was not aware of the Antarctic explorer Scott who died in the utterest possible deprivation of Vit-C and much besides. The enormous canvas of personality, heroism, of self-less devotion to colleagues displayed to the very last breath by Scott speaks  of the fact that man is something much more than vitamins, and it is the aim behind the man that practically determines the range of physiological responses and not vice-versa. I have had the misfortune of being in Bengal during the war in famine time. I have witnessed examples of a colossal display of heroism and cowardice in the same gruelling circumstances of deprivation by different persons. 
The correct picture of normal human physiology becomes clear in the pages of the biographies of persons like Scott and Lawrence of Arabia, and a host of others who were engaged in advancing behavioural physiology rather than being passive victims of the printed oracles of the medical tribe of the time. 
I have purposely inhibited myself from referring to the names of the Buddha, Ramakrishna, Ramana, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother whom I take as the pacemakers of human evolution, for the canvas is beyond my scope, and a quotation or two does not materially add to the validity of what I say, which must rest on your own personal observation and verification. However, I can draw attention to the point that Sri Aurobindo mentions the ranges of thought that manifest after cessation of heat-beat, and Mother speaks of our organs as being representative of the vibrations of different centres of consciousness. There is the record of Swami Rama who carried out normal activities after the stoppage of heart’s action.
Here is another man. Forget the social nomenclature that labels him a beggar. Both his legs are stumps. He is propelling himself on the road in the grueling heat of a summer noon. His aim cannot be merely to beg for in this hot noon very few are on the roads and no one is likely to tarry long enough to fish out a coin from the sweat soaked pockets. If you blind your observational faculties by the blinkers of labels you will miss a lot. The man is impelled by the aim to move, and there is a note of joy even in occasional plaintive cry. But none of these will ever compete in Olympics.
Is this why Pavlov once said that all so-called diseases are only nature’s experiments in the evolution of newer mechanisms? That is also perhaps the reason that the Mother discouraged the use of the word ‘diseases’. There are or ought to be no diseases in the creation but only spurs to newer levels of integration.
It is said that we walk with our legs. No sir, first you have a desire or need or aim to walk, t move t another place. This aim then chooses available mechanisms inside you and outside of you to fulfill itself. You will bring to use your legs, hands, or abdomen to propel yourself, or faint and get carried by friends, or commandeer a vehicle. At least for curiosity observe the effects of the vibration of aim.
Aim is the potent spade which digs out the gold-mine of possibilities inherent within you.
At this point I become aware of the remark –what about the average man? I am not aware I was speaking of super-human beings. Anyhow it is time to take a look at the words normal and average as applied to physiology and aim. It is most unfortunate that the medical profession has given currency to the popular view that what is in reality only a statistical average finding of blood-pressure or behaviour is passed off as normal and the tragic damage this causes to human society. This is a most inexcusable scientific salesman’s label-labelling what is average as normal. The truly normal man is the one who explores and exploits all his faculties to the full of which are made the innovators of mankind. Their aim is clearly to reach an objective with everything they can muster. The average man has made his whole life corresponding to the most popular idol of the public and this aim fulfils itself and engulfs the whole society leading to the chaos of which we all complain. 
I might now examine another aspect of the phenomenon of aim: 
Here are three medical students who at the time of their admission to the medical college stated boldly and fluently without even batting an eye-lid that their whole aim in life was to save suffering humanity. Money was no object. Physical hardship was beside the point. The interview board consisted of very erudite and strident expounders of the glorious traditions of a noble profession, and had the definitions of health as propounded by the WHO at their finger-tips. They even helped to formulate them. So the candidates were selected. At the end of the three years one of the three was spear-heading a strike for increased stipends. This was necessary to meet the debts incurred in merry making so necessary for normal medical education. He also wrote a prize winning essay on motivation in rehabilitation. The other one was on a dharna to press for better breakfast facilities in the hostel where only puris cooked in oil were being given instead of puris cooked made in pure ghee to which he and his family were accustomed since generations. Also the breakfast was always Southern and hardly suitable to a North-Eastern coming from the foot-hills. He had successfully held up all teaching programmes for a term at least. It is said that he may have got the gold medal for his brilliant essay on the relevance of the Bhagavadgita to modern medicine, thus building a golden bridge between our glorious past and our scintillating present. There is the boy who might have said that he came to do medicine because he wanted to earn money by doing the thing he liked most and that was to skillfully help the disabled. Since he was unable to tell the name of the interim minister of health of the state and also the name of the cricket captain of the current touring team it was unfortunately not possible to take the boy into the high –minded profession. Now I might hazard a guess that this boy has himself apprenticed to a shoe maker and is occasionally designing foot-wear for crippled children thus fulfilling his aim.
This brings us to the often noticed divergence between professed aim and latent or real aim. This is so globally prevalent that it is hardly noticed as a disease, destroying the fabric of individual bodies and social institutions.
To know what your professed aim and real aim is does not require psychiatric or astrological consultation. If your professed aim is go to the Himalayas for spiritual enlightenment because that is what you wanted to from even before your very birth, and then at Madras you find yourself buying a ticket to Colombo because thee is a summer air-travel concession and it would be a pity to waste the chance and anyway Himalayas would not run away, and at Colombo you take a seat in a package tour to Australia to witness the test match, and life being continuous from birth to birth Himalayas might be given their chance another time-well it does not require much to tell yourself what you are doing to yourself. There is nothing virtuous or vicious about it. This is not a philosophical or moral essay. It is an exercise in enlarging one’s awareness of one’s own actions promoting an increasingly effective and harmonious self-effectuation sometime also called self-realisation. You may perhaps see at some point that you are slowly becoming your aim, your true aim into which you are putting all your resources.
If your aim is to be happy-then your whole body will gradually or suddenly collaborate and it will radiate happiness and you will be a walking blessing to those around you.
But perhaps your aim is to look happy, to be considered as the most popular, successful, hilarious, self-fulfilled man, whatever that might mean, then your aim will take you to the intensive-care unit of a Swiss Nursing Home, and your body will be mourned by millions of available mourners as that of a self-less man who served the nation with oxygen tubes in his nostrils and computerized catheters in his veins, and any number of transplanted organs in his insides so that hardly one can be blamed for feeling that they are attending a corporate funeral.
Human physiology is the progressive unfoldment of possibilities that lead to its transcendence, into the God-hood inherent in its make. The aim of another school of thought is to make an animated cadaver with cannibalised organs and fixed in the recurring habits of life of greed, gluttony, and violence as the hall-mark of human progress. You have the choice-to be one or the other. 

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