The great experimental philosopher, Sally Brown, once said, Some philosophies take a thousand years. I think of them in two minutes.
Among the gems of wisdom she bequeathed us, we can count, Who cares? Where will it all end? What’s that supposed to mean? and Wolves are making a comeback. And who can forget her classic, all-purpose phrase for coping with life, Drop dead!?
But perhaps it is the wisdom of her ‘sweet babboo’, Linus van Pelt, which provides the best way for putting life’s little, and even huge, problems into perspective.
Five hundred years from now, who’ll know the difference?
Well, fundamentally opposed to oversimplifying as he may be, your humble correspondent has found himself adopting a handy phrase a lot of late, and if you’ve read the title, you’ll know what it is.
But it isn’t simply a dismissive, though, worryingly, some might see it as one. In a recent conversation with some chums, somewhat interested in new strides in neuroscience (as well as ‘mindfulness’), one of them made the statement that we now know there are neurones in the walls of the digestive system. And there is this fear that the response of So what? was taken to indicate a belief that it didn’t matter a jot. As the conversation veered off in other directions at that point, there was no real chance either for clarification of the intent behind the phrase or the actual question in hand, but the wrong impression (understandably) seems to have been left by that So what?
The motivation behind the query is a worry that, in many areas, people sometimes take what might be a simplistic view, based on pre-existing beliefs, attitudes or other baggage. Not that this did or didn’t apply in the example stated, but there are those who look for, say, a mystic, mind-body-spirit take on things or, equally, a decontextualised scientific scepticism (and your correspondent admits tending to the latter).
So the statement that there are brain-type cells in the gut could be taken to imply a number of things. It actually can lead to fascinating ideas and questions — from how can we now view ancient ‘scientific’ and artistic musings based on the guts/heart/liver/big toe as the ‘seat of the emotions’ to what this might tell us about the treatment of mental and physical conditions alike. But there is a tendency to make statements like this, in all fields (particularly, nowadays, political ones, and especially out here in webland) as portentous and sort of final.
The idea of the ‘mic drop’ has become an infectious one. Yrs Trly asked a question in a facebook discussion and was snappily accused of trying to shut down the conversation with it, as if it had been meant rhetorically. It may be getting tiresome, but the idea of trying to move to a more Socratic dialectic dialogue in arguments is one you have yet to hear a lot more round these parts (Nooooo! Come back!).
And the fascination remains, even though the other folks from that café chat probably forgot about it minutes later, that it would be very interesting to pursue the question of, So what does the presence of neurones in the gut imply or signify (vestigially or functionally), where else might they be found, and what is the interrelation, if any, between them and the brane itself? Is there a connection between this and the secondary brain of the dinosaurs?
And your bloggist will go on asking So what? in all sorts of circumstances, sometimes even using it in a way to match Ms Brown’s Who cares? or even Drop dead! But most often as a way of trying to take an idea deeper and hopefully find a common premise at the bottom of the pit, from which to climb back out to a fuller understanding of and perhaps even agreement on the question at hand.
To which, all one can say is, So what?