A short analysis of The Human Machine’s Main Component parts
This article was first published on the Katoptron Website, but since it is no longer available there, I have decided to post it here for easy reference in case some of you are interested.
Remember when cars were relatively simple and you could buy manuals for every model that hit the market? My first car was a red Ford Escort 1.6L, and I had just such a manual for it. These manuals were so good that you could literally maintain your own vehicle and never needed to wonder if the mechanic actually did the work specified on the invoice. My manual was well worn, had oil stains as testimony to the work I had done on the vehicle while referring to the manual and even had a blood stain on page 21, reminding me that I had nicked a finger with a pair of pliers. As such, my car was in excellent condition and I knew exactly how every component part worked and could fix anything that went wrong. A lot of people bought these manuals though, read parts of it, did the simple things (like changing light bulbs), but never really got to grips with the machinery or repaired or serviced their own vehicles.
People are much the same, during my marriage, our family was rather dysfunctional. I had bought second hand and, as anyone will tell you, second-hand cars and people come with history that you simply don’t know about when you sign the contract – caveat emptor! We went on several courses, seminars and counseling sessions to try and work out the difficulties we were having, but it was all to no avail. One day, as my ex-wife suggested another seminar, it dawned on me – we had attended some really excellent workshops, read the right books with all the correct advice and could by now write a book about the methods ourselves. The one thing that was missing though was that none of this knowledge had been practically applied! I refused to go on one more seminar until we had applied everything we knew, and developed one of my favourite quotes that day; “If the theory does not work in practice, try practicing the theory!”
If the theory does not work in practice, try practicing the theory!
The point is that there is a lot of criticism of self-help and motivational work these days. We are told that self-improvement is a dying discipline, because it simply doesn’t work. Really? That would mean that no-one could ever aspire to anything more unless they could already afford a life coach, psychological counseling or any of the other wares these gurus are peddling. I beg to differ. Even with all these external interventions, it is the individual’s decision and commitment to change that is the catalyst for any improvement. Without the realisation that improvement is possible, without the basic knowledge of what path you want to follow, without the will to change, all these new-fangled experts and their methods would achieve nothing, and many have taken control of their own lives, just as I maintained my own car when I couldn’t afford the services of a mechanic, and maintained it for themselves. Do not let them confuse you with their fancy covers, the basic mechanics of engines are still the same, and if you take off the covers you can still do the work yourself. And the same applies to the mechanics of the human machine too.
What I am trying to say here is that you need to take the information you gain from books, articles like this, seminars and courses that you may attend (by the way, well done for taking the time to get to know yourself, it is time well spent), and get to grips with the component parts of…well, YOU the human machine. Beware of going into analysis paralysis. Take the information gained, look below the covers, understand how each component works and apply it in getting the machinery operating at optimal efficiency. As with mechanical tools, you will find that there are several methods and approaches, but that some are more effective than others. You will also soon learn that you do not need to interfere with parts that are working well – don’t fix anything that isn’t broken! Get to grips with the basic principles first; what are the major components and how do they interact? Well, this is where the first obstacle lies, what exactly are the main component parts of the human machine?
Beware of going into analysis paralysis
“I think, therefore I am”; this philosophical statement as proposed by René Descartes is often taken as the acid test for our being. But the human machine is not just the thinking mind, is it? If I punch you in the face, you wouldn’t shrug it off as if I merely hurt your body. You’d complain that I hurt YOU. But, What about your soul? Can I step on it? Does it form thoughts? On what basis do we assert that this even exists? Some hold that it is all flesh and blood – Thoughts are merely electro-chemical impulses that pass between synapses and emotions are hormonal responses to external stimuli. The argument that we are far too complex for this to be the case doesn’t hold water either – have you examined the enormous complexity of the physical human body? Do you know that all the computers in the entire world cannot make as many connections as the human brain? This means that the entire internet and all the computers, including super-computers, are no match for this one component of your PHYSICAL machine!
I like to hold that our thoughts are somewhat more than a physical process of input, impulses and computations based on previous input forming a reaction and output. Yes, we are programmed by external stimuli and yes, even computer technicians talk about “the ghost in the machine”, referring to the fact that these machines often compute in ways that cannot be explained by mechanics, programmes and electrical impulses. So, are we more than a body? The fact is that we need to believe in something greater than ourselves. We need to know that life, or the sum total of our thoughts, actions and emotions, are not forever snuffed out when we blow out our last breath. That sense of continuity extends beyond our own existence; we also need it so that we may believe that our loved ones are not similarly erased forever, that there is hope of meeting again and that we may have a higher consciousness where we will have purpose beyond this brief excursion into life.
“I think, therefore I am” - René Descartes
Although the evidence for the spirit is tenuous to say the least, I would like to believe that it is the real essence of who we are. If there is one key element that gives me this hope beyond the ephemeral, it is this – I cannot believe that all this endless complexity of design could have occurred without a designer or creator. Chance, even in an endless, limitless universe cannot explain sufficiently the universe we perceive. That’s another thing, my perception can exist without a physical universe that correlates to it; everything outside can simply be my internal perception or creation. But, if the external is real, tangible and accessible to me (which is already a tall order – on the scale of the miraculous), it cannot be so without the internal process of my perception! Therefore, my being is proof that it is, either way.
I know this is all very philosophical, but the important thing is that these three components are what we generally agree to as the human machine. Much as a car consists of the Undercarriage with steering, suspension, etc. the Shell with the passenger compartment, luggage area, safety features, etc. and the Engine with fuel tank, combustion chambers, gearbox, etc.; so the human machine comprises three main parts The Physical Body with its component parts, The Mind with the thought processes, emotions, etc. and the Spirit. Each of these need special care, maintenance and nurture. We, as the stewards of the gift of life, have a duty to not only study towards the goal of living our maximum lives, but to apply ourselves to that task. My call to you is to use what you learn, be it from here or any other source, and make your life count. Be more than the sum total of your component parts and leave more than a gravestone – leave a legacy. I believe in you, do you?