The Joy of Painting

I think it was Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes who said:

“Ancient dissectionists spoke of the auditory nerve being divided into three or more pathways deep in the brain. They surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at three different levels. One pathway was said to hear the mundane conversations of the world. A second pathway apprehended learning and art. And the third pathway existed so the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.”

Of course there were ancient dissectionists. Bless their hearts. I bet people were stealing bodies left and right in ancient times. And what a risk to cut into a dead body at a time when spirits were vengeful and myth dominated this small, flat world. In the ancients’ defense, it does feel flat when you’re walking around, and even the best of us will spin ourselves a good story when we don’t understand what’s going on.

One pathway was said to hear the mundane conversations of the world.

Today, science says this is the level where we decode the basics like duration, intensity, and frequency. I suppose that’s like when you ask someone how they’re doing and they start telling you what time they woke up, what they had for breakfast, and why they ate that instead of what they usually eat. And there you are, just looking at them, wondering what it must be like to be married to them (day in and day out), then you remember who their partner is, and you’re like, yeah, that makes sense I guess. Then you tune back into them, and they’re still talking about how the store stopped selling their favorite granola. So you drift away again and dream of another (path)way that delivers something deeper and more profound. 

A second pathway apprehended learning and art.

This pathway seizes learning and art because everything else is fucking mundane. Big thanks to the thalamus for doing its thing here by conducting our body’s senses. It takes in what we hear, see, touch, taste, and it gets us thinking about what we might do with it all. It contributes to how we move, what we say, what we feel, what we remember, what turns us on, and other important things, like when it’s time to sleep. It takes in info and art and transfers or transforms that energy to another object or into a different kind of energy—like joy or a painting or a new discovery. 

Bob Ross gets it.

And the third pathway existed so the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.

What if these so-called ancient dissectionists were onto something with their theory about the third pathway? I agree that we can’t be expected to figure it all out based solely on the knowledge and art presented to us by others. If nothing else, the very first person (for discussion sake) to create art or hypothesize had to get inspiration from somewhere deep inside themselves. Even the urge had to come from within. Sometimes you have to drag the lake to find the body. (I don’t know if the drag-the-lake metaphor works here, but I used it the other day for the first time, and it makes me happy.)

In modern times, we know the third pathway of the auditory nerve has something to do with the auditory cortex, but, apparently, we don’t know much more than that. I found this on the internet, “Despite the rapidly expanding knowledge of the neuroanatomy and connectivity of the auditory cortex, relatively little is known about its functional organization, especially compared with the visual and the motor systems.” 

Maybe the ancient dissectionists, with their crude instruments (I assume) and curious minds (obv), got it right when they posited that the third pathway is “the soul” listening intently for guidance and knowledge—a place science can’t quite wrap its brain around (meta). A place we can access and work within so we can dredge up and present our own version of knowledge and art to this big, round world. Sometimes you have to drag the lake to find the body. (Is here better?)

We have to trust ourselves pretty fiercely to access this pathway and to stay in it. It’s easy and socially acceptable to slip back into the mundane or to merely reflect back what others have shown us. It takes consistent effort to trust ourselves with our “soul” thoughts (I apologize in advance for making you read those words together). I’m going to make it right though and say: feel free to replace soul with true self or animus or genius or spirit animal or conscience or life force or intellect or vitality or energy or Darryl. Don’t let word choice stop you from exploring this space. 

We’re all counting on you to find a way to access you inner Darryl. Each of us can bring something new to the world if we listen to our soul thoughts. (Again, apologies to you and the ancient dissectionists.) 

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