When I was a cartoonist, a comic artist seeking to come up with a new piece every day, I used a variety of techniques to generate useful ideas. One technique I often used was that in my mind’s eye I’d create a column of words representing or associated with something specific and sit that column next to another column of words representing or associated with another concept. Then I would run the columns up and down like a slide rule. I was looking for complementing concepts or associations with patterns that mirrored each other. Goofy incongruities would emerge. Showing how things seemingly unrelated had connections, with the connections seeming arbitrary, led to humor.

Gary Larson, who created The Far Side, was a master of this technique. For example, placing a clown in one column with various associations, such as using a cream pie as a weapon, compared to a criminal in the other column creates a panel with a clown in an alley with a cream pie about to mug a citizen. The caption “When clowns go bad” completed the bridge. This kind of humor is all about connections.

How, you might ask, would this technique have anything to do with evolution?

Highly controversial in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth was the origin of features or characteristics that emerged in progeny that selection had acted upon. Darwin proposed in his Origin of Species that features exhibited in progeny were completely random. The environment culled out those individuals with features that did not live to procreate. Other theorists (and Darwin in later works) suggested that the variety of individuals that emerged–features pre-installed–were influenced by the environment so that the selection of features that were exhibited were more likely to be features that would survive into the next generation.

Sifting through the two columns of associations when seeking a comic bridge is a little like mating two individuals carrying with them a variety of features or characteristics. A good pairing will lead to a unique, robust being that settles easily into the world. Where do the columns of ideas come from, the selection of features in each association column that led to the unique production?

The Origin of Species would suggest the source is random. As humans, with an unconscious, that is not the case. For example, comic ideas emerge as a direct result of unconscious, deliberate intent. In a sense, the conscious mind behaves like the environment, culling out the less unique, less useful options. The unconscious mind provides the material to work with. In just such a way, nineteenth century theorists suggested, the environment was the source of features an individual would exhibit. And then the environment would cull out those individuals with features that didn’t fit.

Comparing a comic creation process that uses this technique to biological creation equates the human unconscious when creating a comic to the environment when designing an individual to survive. Pursuing this comparison further, one could define “nature” or the “environment” in terms or associations familiar to us by our knowledge of the unconscious, and vice versa. We could seek to understand our unconscious by how we understand how the environment influences the origin of features in an individual.

In other words, nature is to the individual as the unconscious is to the conscious mind.

This analogy becomes particularly interesting when we consider that humans, as individuals influenced by the environment before birth, are the equivalent of the conscious mind in nature. In other words, nature or the environment is to the individual as the human unconscious is to the human conscious. Consider that human consciousness was a feature selected by the environment.

There is evidence to suggest that this is the case.

Just as autism and other conditions characterized by maturational delay and less cerebral differentiation are emerging as a direct result of the environment raising a mother’s testosterone levels influencing maturation rates, there was a time when the environment installed features in the opposite direction. Autism in several ways exhibits a more global consciousness or fewer barriers between the unconscious and conscious mind. This is a direction we are headed. A while back, perhaps 25 thousand generations or so ago, the environment installed cerebral differentiation and maturational acceleration leading to split consciousness and the ability to make cartoons.

When I started writing this blog, I didn’t exactly know where I was going. With my unconscious leading the way, I follow along with my fingers typing out words. I experience the feeling that no small part of this adventure is following along as my unconscious seeks to make known its relationship with the environment, its origins and our connection to sources we have no words for.

I’ll end with a riddle my unconscious just created.

What’s the difference between nature and the unconscious? One creates life and in the other, life creates. The challenge is to learn to not know the difference.


This entry was posted on Sunday, November 9th, 2008 at 7:49 am and is filed under 10-Unconscious, Art, Autism & Society, Autism Features, Biology, Unconscious. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Alex on December 27, 2009 5:46 am

    wow. enjoying.

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