Volume 4

  ... I determined that there are classifiable responses that drive our insatiable instinct to peg

ideas to forms. Or better still, to bridge an interior motive with an exterior effect. I call

these 'conversion devices.'

   Broadly, they are novelty, intention, mirroring and recursion. Although these

appear to be behavioral, even psychological, responses, they are deeply neural

idiosyncrasies that appear innate, albeit abetted by nurturing. Each will be addressed

individually as best as they can because they interface with each other and are

difficult to separate. Extirpate one and it collapses the function of the other.

   We shall lead the discussion through behaviors that reveal just how dynamic these

devices truly are. But the remarkable revelation is that all of them exercise contiguous

neural loci around the premotor cortex and Pars Opercularis, a part of the brain

identified by Korbinian Brodmann as area 44 (Binkofski 2000; Heiser 2003; Vaina


   Even more fascinating is that it's an area long ago, and still rather narrowly,

defined as an exclusive driver for verbal language formulation (as opposed to


   Clearly it is not. But these loci of which each brain has two, are also significant for

evolution of perspectives, especially the projection of the self as a third-party

observer in the role of the actor (Shipton 2009; Tomasello 1999; Iacobini 2003;

Rizzolatti 1996). This means that 'I' am the first party, observing someone else, the

second party, and then inject my idea of self into that second party and imagine

seeing myself as if it were me instead of them. I am an actor because I am role playing

but also observing myself in that role. It is here where the 'likeness' or mimetic concept

resides in its starkest incarnation.

   It sounds awfully convoluted, which it certainly is. But it is a fluid conversion that

humans undertake with the greatest of ease, both automatically and self-consciously.

The most self-conscious industry being those of the creative arts, but also more

mundanely, for all manufactured objects we use that others also have such as

smartphones and fashion trends.

   The Pars Opercularis is curious. And we suggest that perspective swapping, which

is the fundamental driver of mimesis, is generated here. It is likely a behavior as

innate and essential to binding us in communities as any basic survival habit could

possibly be. If the neural clusters that instigate this interpolation of oneself as another

object were less robust or absent, communication on any level would be highly


   In contrast, it is often said that for autists, this kind of Theory of Mind (ToM) never

reverberates beyond the personal body. For them, the simulation of otherness is

often a sense that parts of their own body and mind are those other foreign, third -

party things. It is a dialogue that rages and enrages within their corporeal walls, a

dialogue that is often characterized as their 'thinking self versus their feeling self'

(Grandin 2013).


   The most important concept of mimicry is the application of oneself as the unique

uber tool, much like a tensile pen, by which to draft the world as we sense it. In effect,

we don't require other tools or meta tools to extend our sensory and interpretative

reach; all we need is the neural textile of interwoven sensations as they issue

upsweeping unities called ideas or responses that extend through our bodies on

through our orifices, surfaces, limbs, and then outwards to the tip of a little finger or

toe (generally). We can harness these to mechanical extenders like charcoal,

computers, hammers, and selfie sticks, but we are the essential meta tool.

   How does a rush of spiking synapses translate into a gross-motor, physical action

that refers directly to the initiating neural impulse? Here's the answer: I don’t know.

   Nevertheless, keep reading.

                                                    The Pointer

   Homo Sapiens by virtue of our name are discerning of many things. We are

‘thing-ists’. We necessarily have border mentalities and not necessarily because our

optical system is prone to this, which it definitely is. One could take the statement

above about border mentalities and run with it in psycho-sociological terms about

nations and wars.

   Nevertheless, 'Sapiens' really means knowing 'about' or around or concerning

something by determining where to set the limits and circumscribe 'it.' That is all. The

word 'Sapiens' is an active term, a gerund.

   It confers on our species the constant activity of seeking knowledge in every

breathing moment. 'Knowing' is an abstract concept. Highly illusive. Frustrating. And

breathlessly enticing. It has extreme limitations that manifest in the irreconcilable

differences between materials; that one molecular structure, namely ourselves, simply

cannot naturally 'read' or align with the molecular components of a differing one.

   Thus, we can only circle or know 'about', around, or regarding something. This is

why for humans about other humans, we require communication systems to try to

figure each other out. Each of us is a different material structure. These constructs

such as verbal language are faulty and irritating, but they are all we have to 'know

about' each other and things. In effect, we employ them to circumscribe a collection of

parts, assets, activities, etc. as unique among so many other moving parts on the

universal stage.

   And this is also why humans adore lines.

   By the way, a line is a very definite kind of shape. Its dimension being defined

mostly by a width considerably less than its length. That's all. And depending on

where you are standing, the proportions change dramatically. It's a relativity thing. A

portion of a line can be enormous, say, for an ant on a stick or for a human fording

the Grand Canyon, which is a linear gash in the earth.


                             The mother of all conversion devices

   We are the earth-walking octopus. This mimetic attribute is our modus operandi

and directly supports our success on earth. It both inures and lures us to try to read

the nontangible messaging across the larger environmental stage on which we

perform. This means the subtle messaging among the inanimate or all that is defined

superficially as not possessing a beating heart nor the ability to move on its own.

   Emphasis on 'try.' We intend this because of the quaint but exasperating habit we

have of doubting our sensory acumen yet believing we have the means, make that the

entitlement, of figuring it all out. Thus, we are all at once modest and arrogant. We are

inconsequential yet almighty.

   The only way we can do all this is by developing hyper-sensitivity to 'effects' and

inventing equivalencies for them; that 'this is like that.' With the term 'like' being the

mother of all converting devices since it expresses in one tiny idea that every sensory

input converges with others, suppressing and altering perception so that the notion of

'certainty' is always a negotiable target.

   Let's take it a step further. Vision converts sound inputs just as touch converts

vision, etc. In each case, it sharpens our focus beyond the original input. When we

hear something in the background, it remains ambient if we do not turn our vision into

a sound-seeking device to identify the direction from which it came. Close your eyes if

you don't believe me. Now eco-locate. Have someone move about and make noise.

Your eyeballs cannot suppress their mission to swivel in their socket and locate the


   'Touch' further converts the impact of vision too. What you see in the distance

cannot be touched. When you finally do touch it, the story has changed. It happens all

the time.

    Take that blueish, greenish triangle in the distance that I decide should be labeled

'mountain.' Up close, it is a confusing, sweaty, exhausting enigma of trudging through

brush and slipping around rocks. The hodgepodge of the new full-body inputting

necessarily alters the picture. A child cannot learn to visualize about depth perception

and texture unless he extends himself and touches the world.

   We know this so deeply and immediately that we make adjustments for our

perception issues with standardized equivalency precepts. Some would call this

symbolism, but if you did call it that, all animals are highly symbolic too. A dog hears

the music of someone's gate and 'knows' it is the embodiment of its master. It converts

distant sounds into tight cognitive formats that function as expectations of imagery

and emotional rewards.

   Or consider the honeybee. A bee 'waggle dances' in the air, and by so doing,

sketches an ephemeral map that converts the experience of flying time and direction

to good flowers and homes, which then somehow lingers as an entity in the brains of

conspecifics. In this latter case, the bee is 'publishing' the media as an abstract fact.

   They see a map.

   Though we humans are really, really good at this same game, it begins with fits

and starts and remains mildly troublesome even as we grow wiser. When it comes to

isolating those 'equivalencies' by capturing them in a stable, freestanding form, it

requires remarkable physical and cognitive conversions or transfers. Not the obvious

intangible onto tangible like looking at a sunset that is a two-dimensional spread of

reflective light quanta and then fixing it in paint or graphite shading, but the motivation

for even attempting to do so in the first place—in other words, the ‘impulse.’


   For most of us, the 'likeness' concept drives our determinations to even invent

equivalencies in the first place. On what could a communication system be constructed

or any living thing were recognition of mutual identity absent? For example, if we first

must agree that the moon looks like a face, we must first take for granted that you

and I are similar and think the same way. And this has to be well-founded long before

it occurs to us to symbolize anything. One wonders if language in any form could exist

without this dynamic recursive context—the belief that ‘I am (like) you.’

   Why do I call this the basic ironclad recursion? Because it is the single operating

principle of consciousness, a simple yet perfect sentence that reverberates

throughout our communicative and active lives. It is the framing clause for all creative

passages such as a thought sentence or any media construction, in fact for all human

operations. And it immediately branches out to become 'I am (like) that.'        

   This is the ever-rumbling, inner dialogue between perspectives; to consider 'that

thing over there' in terms of 'me, over here.' In the extreme, it can torment. The term

for this self-dialogue, ‘soliloquia,’ was coined by Saint Augustine around 386 A.D. (see

'Soliloquies' 1910). It was for him then, as it is for us now, a percussive, deterministic,

omnipresent, and cognitive structure apart from which conscious humans cannot seem

to operate (as suggested above, autism is a putative case in which the intellectual

understanding might be there, but the technically unassisted and coordinated ability to

express it is not; see Baron-Cohen 1995, Sacks 1995, Grandin 2013, and Giovanelli


  That notion of a soliloquy, in which some version of the 'self' addresses another

form of the self, is predicated on the active functioning and belief in a fully unified

sentience where the commingling of intellect, emotion, and bodily feelings is

summarized as a unity.

   This seems counterintuitive since there seems to be a necessary split of


    But that's the point. You can't split an apple that isn't whole first.

   The Fronto Insular and Anterior Insular and Anterior Cingulate Cortices are

significant for this kind of perspective locomotion. Paradoxically, autists have a higher

ratio of a specific kind of bipolar neuron called Von Economo Neurons or VENs to

pyramidal cells - a remarkably symmetrical neuron recently identified as essential to

this kind of gymnastics. In some studies, this was found in young children to be an

increase of over 50%. An overgrowth to be sure in an area (FI- fronto insular cortex)

known for the integration of self-ism in terms of emotions, intuitions and social

   In the autist brains, the cell somata (the stomach or really the body of the cell) and

dendrites (the branches that receive the synaptic impulses) are atypical. The nucleus

of the neuron tends to be swollen and the dendrites are longer and present like

corkscrews. The common assessment of this difference suggests a heightened

interoception or a heightened awareness of the body’s behaviors and needs to the

extent that an autist’s concern or awareness of other’s physical behaviors and

therefore social signals are distracted and subjugated.

   But it is a bit more complex than ‘selfishness’ per se. They begin with an acute

awareness of the apple split and have to work extremely hard to reconstitute it.

Spinning and flapping arms is their kinetic way to literally pull themselves together,

even compressing themselves in a 'squeeze' machine as Temple Grandin likes to do.

   Behaviorists and anthropologists have long suggested that this dialoguing back

and forth in real-time activity defines the modus operandi of the human species. That

is, that it is outwardly and socially predicated on someone's assumption that their

actions be answered back by someone or something else. Sanity expects this

reverberation, which is why solitary confinement dooms those who are unable to

construct a facsimile for dialoguing.

   Stepping that up a notch, the suggestion has been and continues to be borne out

in most anthropology and material archaeology tracts (White 2006; Pryor 2008;

Turner 2008; Goodall) - that exchanging valued resources is a unique bridge between

like respondents. It creates 'high solidarity' among conspecifics, with one of the most

significant results being positive emotions. And positive emotions, it has been recently

discovered, tend to keep long-term memory readily available in the hippocampus

rather than shipping it off for archiving in the neocortex.

   As early as 1924, Marcel Mauss took this 'exchange' idea a step further or rather a

few steps backward. He noted that it might not be the object transferred that is  

significant but the reciprocity itself that ignites the flow of positive emotions and binds

the giver with the receiver.

       …and increases the individual's commitment to others regardless of what is  
       actually being exchanged…there appears to be a built-in proclivity for
       reciprocity among humans…. (Turner 2008:93)

   Reciprocity and recursion are almost identical concepts. I'm trying not to be extreme

here, but I hasten to say they are more than just almost identical concepts. Think

about it. In language, recursion is often defined as a parenthetical elaboration of the

main clause. It's like a biological clade, an offspring of the same ancestor. A recursion

reciprocates the initial concept by restating it in some other way.       

   Adding a nose to a face is the same kind of thing. We 'get' the face part without the

nose when there is just a circle containing two paired dots for eyes. We just add the

nose to echo the main point—the face idea that depends far more on the eyes and

mouth as the principal players in human communication. In any case, we are

reciprocating facial assets. We don't really have to, but feel that to avoid confusion or

to accelerate understanding, it certainly helps. Thus, we are also running back,

recurrere, on the idea of face when we add another level of description.

   Recursion is also implicit in the notion of dialogue, even self-dialogue, as in that

wonderful word 'soliloquy.' A conversation with oneself.

       For many days I had been debating within myself many and diverse things,
       seeking constantly, and with anxiety, to find out my real self, my best good,
       and the evil to be avoided, when suddenly one - I know not, but eagerly strive \
       to know, whether it were myself or another, within me or without—said to me.   
       (Book One, The Soliloquies of Saint Augustine,  oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1153)

   Philosophers can probably count on two hands the number of possible 'selves'

implied in this work. Ironically, for me, the most obvious is the fact that he wrote it

down. For whom?

   This action alone is a splitting or acknowledging of more than one self. The writer

and the reader. It means he published it. Publishing is a formalized separation of

oneself as shedding some form of a freestanding version of a person. It is a facsimile

of that same person expressed by language that is stabilized on parchment. But it also

reciprocates or runs back (recurrit) to the author as to who they are, what they

consider themselves as being, and how they think. The list could go on and on.

   It also attests to their underlying motivation. All writing is a reverberation or

recursion, a long back and forth of parenthetical actions and descriptions. And this is

despite having 'one thought'—as an editor on the New York Daily News once told me

when I interned there, ‘Just one thought,’ he admonished and smiled.

  Why is publishing so significant? Because by doing it, Saint Augustine, in this case,

captures the many parts of his 'present self' in other media. He gifts it back to himself.

He also predicates 'my real self' based on the similitude of others who might

encounter the writing, including his future 'self' when he rereads it. It is a similitude

that is a parenthetical description of the main clause - 'me.'

   Think about it further. You do not offer a gift unless you assume what the receiver

might feel. You temporarily invent yourself as this person. When it comes to verbal

communication, you do not even open your mouth to speak unless you assume

someone wants to hear you (hopefully). Quite naturally, the only basis for this

assumption being yourself and how you imagine you would feel as recipient.