Monday, January 17, 2011

coke, pepsi and the innermost meaning of things.

One of the things that became apparent in our visit to Costa Rica was that people of all social classes can live in such close proximity to nature. Everywhere we went, front doors were open and as we drove by, we could see right inside. Along the road through Portalón there were small houses only a few feet from the road and alongside the river. If you were driving by at the right time, you could see mothers cooking and tending their kitchen fires. Our lodging at Portasól consisted of two bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, two baths, and a large porch that served as both outdoor dining room, and outdoor living room. Our dinners were at sunset, and our breakfasts out of doors in the fresh morning air.  Wherever we went, people were walking, riding bikes, carrying babies or machetes. And so we saw a simple life in close proximity to the natural world that too many in the northern hemisphere ignore. Howard Gardner had identified an intelligence that some have called "nature smart." And it seems Costa Rica got its share, and we, who have the shameful distinction of leading the world in energy use per capita got the short end of the nature intelligence stick. If you're not exposed to nature long enough to develop some intelligence of it, you may never know what you missed, but the rest of the world will as you pass through it and lay waste.

One morning we waited in our rented Toyota for a large family to load into a small 1970's era  Datsun sedan. The car had been cared for and painted red with spray cans. Two older women and about 4 children of various sizes from teens to toddlers crawled in with the driver along with a large cloth bag of some produce they were taking to market. It is a life different from ours. And it is of great value to be introduced to things outside our normal realm.

Our house at Portasól was a bit unnerving in that it was open to the outside world at all times. There were doors and windows that you could close, but the gables in each room were screened and open to fresh air. So we slept with the sounds of the jungle, the cacophony of rain, the screeches and whirrings of birds and animals in the the night. In the early evening as the light would fade, the bats would begin their silent flight. We could see them only a meter or less away as they whirled in at the edges of our light.

I am thinking of research that would explore our human relationships with tangible objects, that would measure brain response using MRI imagery. Years ago, they did research measuring MRI response to Pepsi and Coke, and were able to watch as portions of the brain "lit up" in response to the taste of one or the other. As far as I know, no similar research has been done or is being done on the hands. It would be easy to have a battery of small objects that correlated with a values inquiry questionnaire would offer insight into our relationship with objects, and thus offer insight into the close relationship between hand and mind. I had studied sociology and political science in college and while I've had better things to do over the past years, it would be interesting to put my full life experience to some use.

It seems that most research and science these days is inspired by cerebral centrism, when a hand-centric point of view would offer new value and a fresh insight.

For my nature smart readers I have attached a photo that you might want to identify. Use the comments to make your guess or prove your smarts.

Today Clear Spring School is closed for Martin Luther King day, so I will be busy preparing for classes later in the week.


  1. Anonymous3:13 PM

    I think you might have once posted a reference to Kelley Lambert's "Lifting Depression." She's a neuro-scientist who's developing a theory that the "effort-driven reward" circuits in our nervous system are intimately tied to the hands. The myriad references and studies she cites may lead in interesting directions. You and she are on similar paths of inquiry.

  2. Doug, our Music Research Institute here has done neural imaging research on pianists and conductors, both of whom utilize their hands in very important ways. Contact Dr. Donald Hodges ( for more information and see the website at:

    He has worked with neurologists at nearby Wake Forest University to conduct this research. The neurologists at WF commented that they had seen nothing "light up the brain" like music, and I suspect that the hands played a large and important part in this.

    Let me know if I can be of further help in this, ok?