Muscle-Bound and Memory-Bound: Two Versions of the Same Pathology

Some members of Gym Culture are called, "muscle-heads"; in "Gym Culture" (Bodybuilding) and athletics, there exists a common condition:

being musclebound

In "Academic Culture" (Education), there exists an equivalent condition:

being memory-bound,
also known as, "Mind-lock"

Being musclebound and Mind-lock are pathologies: unhealthy. The difference between Gym Culture and Academic Culture is that muscle-heads of Gym Culture recognize being musclebound as unhealthy; Academic Culture believes that being Mind-locked (being memory-bound) is healthy. Which is smarter?

It should come as no surprise that the two pathologies are similar. They occur in settings where academics and athletics co-exist: 

educational institutions:
i.e., schools and universities

Schools and universities, which generally have athletic programs and some of which have human movement laboratories, represent themselves as institutions that expand human potential. Well, they do -- to a degree and in the beginning. Advancement within them becomes increasingly restrictive -- until one has ones Ph.D.!

Schools and universities, with their athletic programs, have the resources and wherewithal to become restrictive in both senses: They cultivate being muscle-bound and they cultivate Mind-lock (being memory-bound).

The Experience

In "Gym Culture", being musclebound is experienced as soreness, tightness, restricted movement, and being buff. 

The common solutions employed in Gym Culture to being musclebound are:
  1. stretching ones muscles
  2. working out, some more
    (practicing being musclebound)
Neither works, very well. One works against what one has been cultivating (by stretching) and the other reinforces the problem, but brings temporary relief from soreness. Muscle-movement memory, developed by athletic training, maintains muscle-bound-ness, despite stretching. The reason muscle-memory cannot be released by stretching is because memory entails holding on; stretching can only oppose muscle memory, not dissolve it.

In Academic Culture, Mind-lock (being memory-bound) is experienced as restrictive thinking, dogmatism, interpreting everything according to the beliefs of ones field, habitually using the lingo (jargon) of ones field without being able to translate to the lingo of other fields, and being "published" (looking good) -- or, perhaps, tenure (which means, retaining or holding on). Mental memory, developed by academic training, maintains memory-bound-ness. Academics who are memory-bound are, "retentive".

The common solution employed in Academic Culture to being memory-bound is called, sabbatical. During sabbatical, two activities are common:
  1. extra-disciplinary study
    (stretching ones mind)
  2. further study in ones own field
    (practicing narrowing ones mind)
These solutions also don't work very well. One, extra-disciplinary study, exposes one to things outside ones authority (the viewpoint of ones own field) -- producing an unpalatable loss of status as an authority; the other, further study in ones own field, reinforces memory-bound-ness, but brings temporary reassurance because one is in ones own element.

Both pairs of approaches are similar in design.

An additional wrinkle has appeared in post-modern academic settings: deconstructivism.

Deconstructivism is a stance that seeks to invalidate the authority of any discipline or system of knowledge by asserting that

  1. all knowledge is socially constructed and therefore arbitrary
  2. no viewpoint is superior to any other viewpoint

This stance avoids the possibility of "being controlled" by the implications of any form of knowledge. it is an adolescent stance in the mood of, "Don't tell me what to do (or think)!" It denies the superiority of any stance except its own. It is the formula for ineffectuality at the same time as its adherents are Mind-Bound in it!

Of course, the sense of being controlled is directly proportional to the degree of adolescent resistance -- which pinpoints post-modern deconstructivism as a state of arrested development that protects the state of arrested development.

Stretching and Extra-disciplinary Study Go Together

Extra-disciplinary Study "stretches" ones mind. It exposes one to possibilities beyond what one has entertained, from within ones own field, by exposing oneself to other authorities.

Muscular Stretching forces one to go beyond ones usual range of motion, generally by opposing ones tendency to stay contracted (which resistance weight training cultivates).

While both might give one the sense of possibility beyond ones habits of life, neither actually produces much, if any, increase of freedom -- either freedom of mind or freedom of movement. One always returns to ones habits -- even if one now has an enlarged sense of possibility.

The reason:
Each is committed to the state they have been cultivating. They are committed to two forms of memory:

muscle memory
conceptual memory

The one committed to muscle memory is committed to, "being buff".

The one committed to conceptual memory is committed to, "being an (or the) authority."

You can see how "being buff" and "being the authority" go together. "Authority" is like being "mentally buff"!

Now you know why academia seems to be controlled by mental bullies and why bullies so often appear in educational settings, such as schools!

There's something to be said for Gym Culture. It does tend to develop human potential in a certain way -- such as it is.

There's something to be said for Academic Culture. It does tend to develop human potential in a certain way -- such as it is.

But both are afflicted by "bound-ness." This "bound-ness" restricts or counteracts the greater potential of both. It's a form of self-restriction.

Again, you can see the similarity.

Assuming one is willing to grow beyond self-imposed restriction -- at least in principle -- how is one to overcome or go beyond, "bound-ness"?

The answer lies in memory, itself.

Memory is persistence.

In muscle-boundness, it's persistence of muscle-memory. In other language, it's persistence of muscle-tone, persistence in a habitual posture, habitual ways of moving, limits on flexibility and incapacity to relax, let go, and be at rest, "unready" -- even if one means to let go. One is muscle-bound, so, one stretches.

In memory-boundness, it's persistence of mentality. In other words, it's opinionation, incapacity to incorporate or even to allow other viewpoints, inflexibility of thinking, and a habitual attitude of "knowing". One is narrow-minded, so, one "broadens ones horizons".

"Boundness" is Deliberate

The very institutions of education instill memory-boundness. "Cramming for exams" is very much like training with weights. There's a saturation point beyond which it's difficult to cram in anything more -- just as there's a fatigue level in weight training beyond which it's difficult to do any more. Then, one experiences a sense of memory-boundness that feels very much like, stupidity -- and it is in that state that one takes ones exams.

Whereas elite bodybuilders may push past the saturation (fatigue) point, to the point of hurting so much that they may vomit, in academic culture, the vomiting occurs in a different way: examinations.

About two weeks after exams, everyone forgets most of what they crammed. Just so, if a bodybuilder doesn't work out for about two weeks, he, (and these days, she) loses his (or her) "buff".

To both, feeling free of the sensations of their "bound-ness" feels unnatural. They don't feel like themselves, to themselves. They feel "out of their element". They feel small and weak.

This is very unfortunate because people cultivated by such an educational system come to be memory-bound about their entire lives. They become concerned that they have to become well-defined persons, make something of themselves, and to look good all the time. Whereas "superior" individuals feel they have to "know who they are", become "professional" and look good, mediocre individuals become concerned that they simply look good. 

Many mediocre individuals get into positions of power and influence simply by looking good. Then, they reinforce their mediocrity and mediocrity in the world, by every act they do. They resist improving things because that would entail losing some of their authority, temporarily; it would entail having to change, and since, "they know who they are", that would entail losing, temporarily, their sense of identity. This is unacceptable.

So, they have to pump up, again, if they want to get back what they have lost and keep it.

Their Solution is Their Problem

If they realize that they have been "bound", and that being habitually bound is the discomfort they have been feeling, they may recognize that discomfort, itself, is what makes them want to do what makes them feel uncomfortable (bound and, thus, more like themselves). They may become curious if it is possible to regain and keep what they value (feeling like themselves -- having autonomy and control of their faculties -- i.e., being a "buff" authority) without being bound by restrictions. This is the ultimate dream of every adolescent.

It is possible. But you have to be smart enough to realize it -- and even smarter to act on it in a way that goes beyond adolescent status dreams.

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