Movement and writing, the politics of language and thinking, embodied mind, the mind–body problem, and the origin of language have all come up for consideration in recent discussions, workshops, and reading:

  • At Movement Research’s “Moving Into Writing,”—the long table hosted by Eva Yaa Asantewaa at Gibney Dance Center—several dancers/movers/dance–makers/teachers considered the printed word essential, necessary validation and legitimization of our ephemeral medium, whether as explanation of one’s own work, as critique, or as history.
  • Two nights later at a discussion on “The Politics of Language” with Masha Gessen and Siri Hustvedt moderated by Ulrich Baer at Deutsches Haus, NYU, the focus was on the ways language has been used as an exercise of power that deliberately distorts and confuses meaning and delegitimizes social and scientific norms and structures—both in the past and currently.
  • The next day I attended “A Field Guide to iLANDING,” a workshop led by Andrea Haenggi and Carolyn Hall based on iLAND scores, including one that involved moving, kinesthesia, and writing that Andrea and Rob Neuwirth had created. At first it was quite challenging to be conscious of feeling one’s pulse while walking along the street and also seeing, hearing, thinking, and breathing. Ditto for typing up recall of these kinesthetic, auditory, and visual sensations while still feeling pulse and breathing.
  • Then, reading about politics and the brain: In neuro–linguist George Lakoff’s book The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain, he writes that the way the brain functions, with mirror neurons firing empathetically, points to a positive emotional foundation for reason, and suggests that we are actually hard–wired for democratic values of empathy and protection—of each other, all living beings, and the environment. He has co–authored another book called Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, which I am curious to read as I suspect that, for him, embodied mind is the brain.

At the end of the above–mentioned discussion at Deutsches Haus, Hustvedt, a writer who also teaches in a psychiatric training program, announced that she had written a book called A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, and that in it she had solved the mind–body problem.

This led me to recall that, many decades ago while interviewing for a teaching job in an interdisciplinary program at a college, I had naively yet confidently stated that from a dance perspective there was no mind–body problem. My theologian interviewer found my statement shocking and offensive and, needless to say, I was not offered the job!

Coming full circle to the “Moving Into Writing” long table mentioned above, I was recently reminded that philosopher Suzanne Langer had posited that people danced before they were able to speak and that dance was the origin of language.

More thoughts to come.

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