Revolution & Reconciliation: The mind, the heart and the octopus

Written by Marcy Isabella & Federico Venturini. Artwork by Yira Miranda Montero. Published in Troubling Spaces (Vol. 11 N°1, 2024)

The mind.
The mind?
Well, we can’t quite live without it.

Despite all (and oftentimes very persuasive) evidence to the contrary, our very existence relies on brain activity. On our behalf but without our assistance, the brain controls functions that are both necessary and involuntary—such as respiration and heart rate.

This is true for other animals, but not for all

Jellyfish don’t have brains. They live without any central nerve system, as do leeches. Instead of a brain or central nerve system, the neural networks of jellyfish and leeches are distributed throughout their body.

But perhaps the brain is not what we’re talking
about when we talk about the mind.

The mind is associated with facilities much more complex, much more nuanced, than stimulus and response.

The mind is linked to an ability to reason.

The mind is something we use, something we have control over.

It is our problem-solving instrument.

Again, though, this is also true for other animals, as they solve problems in order to access food, or to find shelter, or to protect themselves.

Crows, for example, make tools. They turn small twigs into rustic dinnerware, using them to dig small bugs out of tree bark.

Yet, it’s unlikely that we’d consider the mind of the crow.

So, again, it seems that the mind, the way we talk of it, might mean more still.

More than a switchboard.
More than an instrument.

It’s almost as if the mind—through what it is along with what does—somehow takes on a life of its own.

The life of the mind, perhaps.

“I think, therefore I am.”

He thought it.
He wrote it.
And so Rene Descartes was.

Descartes is dead now, and while it’s reasonable to assume he is therefore no longer thinking, it’s like, somehow, Descartes still . . . in a way . . . is.

Descartes is dead, but his thoughts took on a life of their own.
They’re alive and well and have made a mess of us.

Because in elevating the mind, Descartes amputated it.
From the body.
From the heart.
From the other.

For centuries, “rationality” has been used to protect, legitimize, and defend abuse, oppression, murder, genocide.

The mind has planned, executed, and rationalized atrocities that the body & the heart could never
stand for.

The mind can be heartless.

An octopus has three hearts.
One heart pumps blood throughout the octopus’s body. The other two pump blood to its gills.
Like all of the octopus’s organs, the three hearts are contained in the animal’s gigantic (relatively speaking) head.

An octopus also has nine brains.

One has to wonder what so many brains, and so many hearts, make possible.
One has to wonder what happens when those brains communicate with those hearts.

One has to wonder, further, what’s possible when the division between head and heart, the separation between thought and feeling, no longer makes sense, biologically.

But something tells us, somehow, that all of us here, we already know this.
We already know that the separation of thought and feeling never made sense.
We know this and we feel this.

We feel love for our fellow humans.
We feel hate for injustices.

We stand and march and fight in solidarity.

We sing and laugh and dance.
Or cry and scream and spit.

We write and talk and debate.

And even when we’re still working out the details, we never give up hope.
Our relentless hope is what makes us revolutionaries.
Hope is where revolutions are born.

And because there is nothing “rational” about hope, one must inevitably wonder what role the rational mind plays in our dreams of revolution.

Though perhaps a more useful question is one of need:
What is needed to put the mind at the service of the revolution?

And to that question, let us propose an answer:
What is needed to put the mind at the service of the revolution is Reconciliation.

The heart must call the mind back home, and the mind must take root right beside it.


July 9, 2024


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.