ART & ORGANISM
“The physiological organism, standing between [an external stimulus and its final consequences], has dimensions of its own to contribute, makes its own transformations and creates its own…functional relationships in the devious paths from peripheral receptor processes to final response mechanisms.” (Frank Geldard 1975. “Sensory Saltation,” Inaugural MacEachran Memorial Lecture. 1975:20-21)
Our biological understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of motivational NEEDS makes a similar intuitive assumption: At the “base” of a hierarchy of needs is PHYSIOLOGY: As emphasized in our overview of NEEDS, the base need for any organism is its machinery for extracting energy from the environment and channeling it in ways that serve its life: How “organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and biomolecules carry out the chemical and physical functions that keep an organism alive and enable it to prosper—grow and reproduce. It involves communications between cells and systems and the maintenance of balance—in part by managing the availability of needed resources, particularly as circumstances change and different systems require more or less resources.
- HEALTH. In the aggregate these are reflected in our HEALTH (see Note 1).
Usually the maintenance of good health is thought of in terms of the absence of challenges to the smooth functioning of these physiological phenomena—disease or infirmity–BUTt we now know there is a much closer relationship between one’s response to such challenges and states of mind and physiological functioning.
PHYSIOLOGY we now understand to be an intertwining of direct experience–phenomena that may evoke stress as a way of coping with challenges to an organism’s ability to meet its biological needs–and states of mind. Indirectly affecting health by means of experiences that range from the sublime to the divine, comfort, love, and fear—all connected to states of mind that affect one’s quality of life and also one’s health in unexpected ways. [This is reflected in the phenomenologically relevant idea of embodied cognition].
- The STRESS response is a key concern here
Note 1: “The meaning of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the theme of the body’s ability to function; health was seen as a state of normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease. An example of such a definition of health is: “a state characterized by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social stress“. Then in 1948, in a radical departure from previous definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of “physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”. Although this definition was welcomed by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague, excessively broad and was not construed as measurable. For a long time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.