2 Thin Lines: How your brain learns to recognize  
 

I had a sneaky feeling that understanding why we are still displaying 'hands' in
clusters just as the cavemen did, might bear witness to this peculiar thing we call
‘recognition’ in its most primal form. There had to be both impulsive as well as
compulsive psychological motives for stamping the relief of one’s hand in mud or
dipping it in paint and slapping it onto rock faces or apartment walls as I did at age
three. Or casting them in plastic and stuffing them into boxes and then displaying
this ‘art’ for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fancy galleries.

Yes, they are funny and fascinating extensions of ours and certainly this has
impact on our love of them. But the universal sameness and durability of these
imprints strongly suggest that the urge had to have started as a cognitive parsing
instinct. The logical reason likely having to do with understanding them as a
possession and ultimately as manifestations of oneself. And why not celebrate
these multi-motile extremities? After all, our hands are rather helpful appendages,
necessities of survival for grasping and stroking and probing and bracing us
against falling, to name a few of its remarkable attributes.

More wonderful is the entertainment value of just watching one hand or even one
finger doing something completely different than the others. Babies are onto to this
at four months old as they coo their way into vocalizing at the same time. You see
them in the strollers multi-tasking as they explore all the new things they own.
They are shuttling between early language instincts and looking at their hands and
holding their feet in similar possessive ways. They are figuring out what controls
these things by virtue of controlling these things that are always in their field of
vision. In this fashion they are figuring out what objects in the world belong
exclusively to them.

Early on, arms and legs might have been perceived as tentacled extensions like
those of other animals. Who really knows. Oddly enough, the free-standing hand
print seems to have become the real mystery as do all things that exist outside of
us so that the roiling question about identity swiftly became, “Is that smudge I
made the same thing as me?” When we owned the activity, we owned the
investiture of self with the mark we made as a unique representation in short form
of an individual. Transferring value to an abstract shape (or tone) is about
systematic coding. And systematic coding is the same thing a cognition. The
cognitive habit once it began, could never be stopped.

These hand images addressed and still do address, two universally conflicting
concerns of every human being; that of wanting to be certain we are a normal
member of the species but only to a point. That toxic power struggle between the
need for individuality versus commonality obviously drives the selfie epidemic which
is precisely why it is an epidemic. We are that needy and still that confused. It is
also likely that the selfsame frustration propelled the hand print manifestation for
upward of almost 100,000 years. It could have been much longer and much more
pervasive. We only ‘recently’ found more stable places for their display when we
found caves could be permanent shrines.

From understanding that we self-manifested in sounds and motions and marks, we
quickly designated them as decisive. From ‘decisive’ we needed to build in a
system of meaning and equations around both the doing of it as well as the things
themselves that we left for done. We could revisit them because they now had a
physical location and we could repeat them through like actions. Why did we need
to extrapolate meaning? Because the new neurons in our brains and their routing
of signals determined it be so.

Then came the discovery that ‘publishing’ itself as a means to make some part of
yourself visible over and over to your conspecifics as well as yourself - held a
tremendous power of persuasion. The self-identifying image could be manipulated,
organized, re-produced, shared, altered and made into a pattern. We wanted this
very multisensory activity, not just the static 3d image but the chain linked
operation of motion and touch involved in making it, to sear itself into our long-term
memories. For some reason it was very important because the linkage of events
leading to the final image was an essential part of the story and the essence of
‘meaning’. It became a kind of baseline or background against which the drama of
daily life was played out: “As I was stamping my hand in the wet ochre, a huge rat
ran by and the print was a blob.” That blob becomes the place holder for a
recounting of the event. A story is made, a memory and a symbol all at once.

All this identity thinking and self-research had to have been prefigured by the
cognition protocols of identity. Finding out what resides in our brains that always
seeks what ‘identity’ is in the first place, is precisely where one has to begin the
search for ‘recognition’ protocols and not in the visual system or peri visual system.
Only from there can we then proceed with the incredible adventure of outwardly
replicating aspects of ourselves and then on and on to practically every aspect of
our species-specific environment. Once we get the rhythm of this method by
practicing on ourselves, applying it to other things is simple.¬¬¬