The Mind/Body Problem
Here’s another poem – but it’s quite different from the one by Robert Bly that was posted last week.
By Lewis Thomas
My brain is a computer, plugged in,
Switched on, running all the time,
Running up, down, out,
Ready all the time,
I command: make me a poem.
I command: make me a song.
YOU HAVE MADE AN ERROR.
YOU DO THAT FOR ME.
This is a wonderful way for Dr. Thomas to present his response to the serious, ongoing, core argument between those who believe that the brain produces the mind and those who believe that the mind is greater than the brain and exists beyond it. This has been called the mind-body problem and it has caused great divisions in our understanding of what a human being is.
Many of us agree with Thomas’ view: it isn’t the computer brain – despite all its complex neural connections – that can simply be commanded to create poems and songs. Here is a familiar and helpful analogy: the show you watch is not created by the T.V. set although you certainly need that technology to watch a program. Creativity works with the physical brain but is not created by it. The creative mind and the computer brain are the “neighbors” that Thomas names and the last line of the poem – “YOU DO THAT FOR ME” – describes their cooperative partnership.
I came across this poem in a 1984 issue of ADVANCES: the Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, published by an organization that focused on mind-body health. Lewis Thomas was a physician, researcher, award-winning essayist, and poet as well as the former Dean of both Yale Medical School and New York University’s School of Medicine. His most well known book is The Lives Of A Cell.
Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, ADVANCES, Volume 1, Number 4: Fall 1984, Page 29.