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25 januari 2006

The Three Melting Smiles

...where science meets the hippie-dippie

You are a tube.

Don't be offended. I'm a tube, too. All individuals of most animal Kingdoms are.

The inside of the tube is your GI tract. Sphincters stand sentinel at each end. And from a certain perspective, the rest of your body is just the outside of the tube as well as the machinery which helps supply quality matter to keep the tube doing its job.

This notion isn't just a specific or esoteric view of anatomy, it's something that goes back to organismal development, when the invagination of the blastula (also called gastrulation) results in three major layers of the organism: ectodoerm, endoderm and mesoderm. The blastula is the stage at which all the cleavages (cell divisions) of the original fertilized cell (apparently the christian/catholic soul arrives at the same time that the successful sperm gets into the ovum) result in a hollow ball of cells. The blastula forms about eight days after ensoulment fertilization.


Why the little science lesson here? Because the larger facts of the above lesson crossed my mind a few days ago when I was in my physical therapy (PT) session as my therapist was teaching me the relaxation technique of The Three Melting Smiles. It was the three that, in the context of gross anatomy, caught my attention.

Three is a magic number everywhere.

My “hippie-dippie” physical therapist (who was as gorgeous and fabulous as she was soft-spoken) taught me the technique of The Three Melting Smiles: picture a smile that begins at the back of your head and melts down the back of your body...down the back, the buttocks..down the back of your legs, down to your heels and the bottoms of your feet, down your triceps past the elbow, down to the top of your wrists and the backs of your hands and to your finger names. A second smile starts similarly at your face and down your front and a third begins in your mind and moves down your insides all the way down your trunk, through your pelvis and down through your knees to the bottoms of your feet.

Even as I was laying there my more literal sensibility wondered what kind of propulsion a smile might use if it “melted” horizontally. That made me laugh and, eyes still closed, my physical therapist must have wondered why I'd chuckled in the midst of my supposed relaxation.

But that same, more materialist and objective mind remapped the three smiles into endo-, meso- and ecto- counterparts and suddenly I had something that worked for me. Tissue induction was the propulsion and of course the smiles would travel that way. Also, it was a way that suited the most fundamental anatomical model I could think of. Bonus!

An16456 All of this had me recalling something that my rather hippie-dippie therapist (the normal kind of therapist), Ronald, once said: he'd just said something quite Northern Californian to me and, knowing my tendencies towards more analytical thought, said, “that's my language for it and I know you're going to find your own terms for it, so bear with me.”

That qualification turned out to be a kind of Rosetta Stone for me in so many ways. He was telling me to discover the pattern of a thing instead of embracing the literal terms of the thing. Not only that, he was giving me a sort of permission to take the puzzle apart and put it back together for myself. Now, this is something that everyone does, to some extent, when learning anything, but like most, I am hesitant to do anything other than rote absorption of facts in any milieu in which I'm not already somewhat familiar. Clinical psychology being one of those things, Ronald opened up to me the idea of setting aside the idea of authority (or rather, a lack thereof) whatsoever in a subject and just let it play itself out for you.

Very Zen, of course, this Beginner's Mind stuff, but the Buddhists don't have a corner on the idea, nor would they claim so.

Three is, as I said, a magic number. This is both for how often it naturally and emergently appears in all sorts of places, but also because it's the first, best step out of the polarized, unmagical, uninteresting world of Two, of the Either-Or (Good vs Bad, Black vs White, Yes vs No, ad nauseum).

I walked away from PT department at Davies Medical Center with an abstract sense of the pain which comes from very concrete causes (fractured ribs, contused spleen & lung, hairline fracture down the length of the clavicle).

In particular, I'm there doing PT for the shoulder/nerve problems. Referred pain from nerve damage in my shoulder and around the fractures and bruises has me feeling pain in the strangest of places. Like a pinball inside of me bouncing from one place only to arise in some other place a couple of hours or days or even weeks later.

It's a powerful reminder than none of our brains experience the objective world directly. Our brains sit in solemn sequestration and far and away from the actual matter around us, depending solely upon what our senses report to it. And if there is an objective reality out there that is ponderable, the pondering can only happen far from it.

And isn't that ironic, Al-Ayn-is?

All that said, I don't like pain. Pain is a warning that something bad is happening and that the body should get itself away from it or should carefully cradle those parts in pain to protect them from any further damage. Pain is a real and concrete thing that gets to take the bypass around consciousness and make its case to those mechanisms which are there to help ensure bodily survival and nothing more.

Living in the Valley of Pain isn't something I would wish on anyone, even if they might wish it on themselves. Pain Lies on the Riverside, so there's no choice but to keep swimming.

Pain is birthmother of nihilism and existentialism, methinks, and if so, I am quite Pro Choice.

Good thing for me there's no pain involved in beating a dead horse, eh?

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Posted by jeff at 25 januari 2006 2:37

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A tube?! Damn, and all this time I've been considering myself a fractal doughnut.

Posted by: cul at 25 januari 2006 3:23

Someone has too much time on their hands! But it sounds as if the spirit is in better shape these days.

Hmmm....I wonder what we were thinking about on the thought of a smile melting horizontally. That got a good laugh out of me and probably the type that would have had you buckled over, writhing in pain, given your current condition.

Posted by: Tony at 25 januari 2006 11:34

Whew! I am so glad we get to take what you said and "find your own terms for it", 'cause to remember it by rote would have required a much keener mind than my own! Now I need to find myself a shrink who can deliver a "Rosetta Stone" or two every now and then!

Posted by: BatmanSF Author Profile Page at 25 januari 2006 14:40

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