Part Two: The Perception Brain
In my Prof's paper, he discussed the challenges of building an economy based on incremental growth, and small-reward structures like cooperatives and micro-enterprise that rely on local sustainability. No one gets really rich, improvement in economic well-being takes a long time, and some needs go unmet while the community builds its own capacity. For those seeking a quick turnaround, a fast recovery, or a dramatic growth curve, it's frustrating and unsatisfying. It seems like a lot of effort for little return.
The idea was to keep the need for growth at a minimum. How can you do this? Many economists will say it can't be done. But maybe the Perception Brain (PB) offers some insight.
The Perception Brain isn't like the Sensation Brain. It doesn't provide a fast, dramatic response to stimulus, or change biochemistry (and mood) on a dime. It's the brain that responds, sometimes slowly and only with prompting, to the beauty of the night sky, the subtle harmony in a song, the symmetry of a bare branch against a winter sunrise, the awareness of life's complexity, the joy of your dog's greeting when you walk in the door.
My PB needs help from a conscious thought process. It benefits from analysis and intentional noticing of the beauty around me. Most of all, it builds strength and effectiveness from gratitude. It gains power by dwelling (momentarily or in detail), on the many things all around me that bring beauty, satisfaction, growth, joy, pain, wonder, and depth to my existence. Focusing my attention on them, and allowing the Perception Brain to explore them, doesn't produce an instant rush of mood changing chemistry.
It doesn't produce a big reward, and sometimes it's hard to 'feel' any effect on my mood at all, right while I am looking at the amazing colors of the mountains on the horizon. I 'feel' a kind of detached acknowledgement of the beauty, amid the sterile emptiness of a drained, static mood. And then, I turn from that contemplation and let the PB dwell on the comfort of the sleeping cat on the office chair. And the scent of the dried lavender sachet in the drawer I just opened. And the wonder that I have a drawer and the sachet, and the cat, and that I live where this beautiful sunset paints the mountains and I have the eyes to see it.
There's a certain amount of work in that. The Perception Brain doesn't, always, do this on its own. If I don't undertake to prompt it into awareness, especially when my mood is low, it may not happen.
But over time, if I do the work, again and again- if I keep a gratitude journal, and dwell daily on the many wonderful things that I feel or see or do, if I stop now and then and pick something to notice, if I make a habit of attending on the small but reliable beauties and wonders of life, the PB picks up momentum. It gets a little easier to prompt, and it responds more quickly and strongly.
If I'm diligent, and consistent, as with any exercise program, the benefits accumulate. The PB starts to work with less "prompting" and even without prompting at all. The times of static mood become shorter and less intense. Now and again I've been startled to find myself making an imperceptible but very definite shift from tension and anxiety into relaxation, joy, and appreciation.
It's not dramatic, it's not fast. The Perception Brain doesn't deal in the same type and degree of stimulus as the Sensation Brain. It certainly can't replace the Sensation Brain's necessary function. But maybe- just maybe- it's building a better, more sustainable "local economy" in my brain. Maybe it's making my mood less dependent on the continuing growth and ever-increasing magnitude of SB responses to external stimulus, and more self-reliant on steady but small-increment native stimulus patterns.
I'd like to think I'm finding Success in Smallness, so many years after reading those ideas.