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Author: Mgk Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 242  
Subject: Re: Gravity Date: 10/29/1999 2:03 PM
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LN2,

You are truly an erudite net citizen/denizen - think the word is now 'netizen', (right?) LOL!

>>I'm going to go right on posting these until you detect my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.<<

WHAT? You mean you don't subscribe to these theories?

>>For those wondering about the "proprioception" reference…<<

Ah, one of my most favorite topics. (WARNING: don't get me started - probably deserves its own thread.) To my mind the concept represents one of the most ingenious insights of human mental accomplishment. It's a 'medical' term (neurological, actually) of very specific intent (and am sad to see it already bastardized, or should we say, "extended" to other purposes as noted in your URL reference).

From the Latin roots 'proprius' , meaning "one's own" + 'capio' , meaning "to take". Literally, "to take one's own". In other words, one's own sensation of self.

So, how do you know, right now for instance, whether your left foot is suspended, or in contact with the floor (without looking)? Or, how do you know whether your right arm is bent or straight, whether your posture is slouching or upright. It actually consists of simultaneous input from a voluminous number of neural receptors that arrive at specific areas in the brain to give a unified sense of this "perception". Since these stimuli consist of moment-to-moment readings from receptors in muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments with contributions from equilibrium sensors, proprioception is actually a highly complex neurological phenomenon. But, something we just take for granted. It really ought to be considered along with the "standard" five senses.

The dictionary says, "The awareness of posture, movement, and changes in equilibrium and the knowledge of position, weight, and resistance of objects in relation to the body." All that, with a single word!!

The person who invented the term is the renowned British neurophysiologist, Charles S. Sherrington (1875-1952) who also named the "synapse". Sir Charles, who received the Nobel prize in 1932, was a poetic genius, whose descriptions of the human nervous system often sound more lyrical than scientific. Imagine the difficulty of even perceiving a need for such a term. It is the classic "fish in water" conundrum, ie. we take it so for granted that we don't "see" it. In fact, proprioception turns out to be one of the principal "driving" stimuli of the human nervous system that ensures the self-stabilizing function of the organism. And, get this - as evolutionary beings who have developed in the earth's gravitational field, this 'sense', this proprioception, cannot be regarded separately from the influence of gravity. We would not have developed the same capacities in a weightless environment. This is one reason for grave concern about the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human nervous system.

I used to teach some of this stuff at a small local college, and the students were always amused by my utter enthusiasm for this physiological phenomenon. The best and most interesting lay consideration that I've seen on the topic is in Oliver Sacks' book of essays, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. The essay is entitled, The Disembodied Lady. My youngest son was just assigned a paper on the topic at college - that's why it was on my mind again, and got me all excited again.

At the front of his essay, Sacks quotes Wittgenstein as follows:
"The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all." What a marvelous statement.

By the way, a quick test of proprioception (and one that I frequently use clinically): Stand, arms outspread, close eyes. With eyes closed, bring (chosen) finger (little or index, usually) to tip of nose with one smooth continuous, quick movement. Should be able to do this if nervous system is optimal. Many will be surprised when they land on eye or cheek. Variation: bring index fingers together in front - a little harder, but should at least be close.

Next up in the world of linguistic marvels: German word - "schadenfreude".

Oh, and thanks for the book mention, looks worth a browse.

Best,
-Mark
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