Material World

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These past couple of millennia, many people have been thinking that here on Earth we are way too attached to the material plane of existence.  Consider the sheer panic you experience when you can’t find your wallet or glasses, and the corresponding relief you feel when you touch your hair and say what the hell is my wallet doing in my hair?

mars cratorsEven worse, what about when you’re on Mars, minding your own business when suddenly you’re seized by a feeling of overwhelming vertigo: OMG, where’d I park the MAV?  (MAV stands for Mars Ascent Vehicle aka spaceship.)  But then just as suddenly, a sense of peace washes over you as you realize: what the heck.  It’s just a spaceship.  I’m getting way too attached to the material plane of existence.

That helps you to get a grip and remember that you parked the MAV in the second crater to the north, not the fifteenth crater to the southwest.  So it’s all good.

The_MartianAnd hey, things could be a lot worse.  You could have a piece of an antenna protruding from your thorax, your crew-mates could have ditched you, taking the MAV with them, and you could be stuck on Mars for the next two years with nothing to eat but potatoes.

Anyway, my point here is that this feeling of missing something that’s actually not missing is pretty common, and maybe it has something to do with being over-attached to the material plane of existence and maybe it doesn’t.

But consider this:

You, talking to your sister on your cellphone:  “So, Sis, then the Marine says to the State Trooper, ‘Was I speeding Ossifer?’ to which the State Trooper replies, ‘Why do you have an unconscious raccoon on the floor of your vehicle?’ ”

Your sister: “That’s hilarious!  Can you text me that link?”

You: “Sure.  I’ll do it right now.”

You reach for your cellphone and for a moment, a wave of unadulterated terror sweeps over you when you can’t find it.  But then you realize that you’re actually talking into it as you search.  There’s a medical term for this phenomenon called: Dude You’re Way Too Attached to Your Cellphone.

There’s another everyday cellphone-related occurrence called Phantom Vibration Syndrome in which you experience the illusion that your phone is vibrating when it’s actually minding its own business, continually broadcasting your location, pulse rate and shoe size to agents of The Department of There’s Alot of Stuff Going On That You Don’t Know About So Just Don’t Ask OK?.  There’s a fairly complicated explanation of how the illusion works, involving your microbiome, time travel and a few other concepts, but the long and short of it is that you’re way too attached to your cellphone.  At least your peripheral nervous system is.

And speaking of being attached to material things, here’s yet another everyday example:  Once again you’re sitting there on Mars, eating your breakfast of potatoes.  Or maybe it’s lunch.  Or dinner.  Or a snack.  Or another snack.  Anyway, you’re sitting there thinking about the starch you’re downing, and how your blood sugar is rising, and that in turn your insulin is rising and that you have another 583 days of eating potatoes to contemplate when suddenly you’re seized by an almost otherworldly (!) sensation of loss:

“Insulin?  Insulin?  OMG, where’s my pancreas??

Mars Giants

But then a sense of calm returns when you say to yourself No! Wait. What was I thinking?  It’s one of my internal organs!

There’s also a medical term for this and it’s called Reading Way Too Much Stuff About Paleo Diets.  Or maybe it’s that other medical term: Martian Women Don’t Eat Potatoes But Even If They Did, They Wouldn’t Get Fat.

Last but not least, there’s that weird thing that happens when you’re standing on your treadmill at work and you start poking icons on the screen of your desktop computer and then wonder why nothing is happening.  Or you’re punching numbers into your cellphone and wondering why nothing is registering on your desktop screen.

Of course there’s a medical term for this and it’s called Not Every Computer In The World Is Made By Apple, And That’s Your Cellphone Not Your Keyboard, Numbskull.  No seriously.  There is a bona fide medical term for futilely poking your desktop screen and it’s called Touchscreen Illusion Syndrome.  You would think that these medical writers could be a tad more creative when they’re naming these syndromes.  But that’s not my point.

My point is that I’m running out of descriptors (sheer panic , overwhelming vertigo, unadulterated terror, otherworldly (!) sensation of loss) to express the distress we all feel when we can’t find our stuff.  It’s starting to make me a bit edgy.  I don’t know if there’s a name for getting panicky thinking about getting panicky, but before we know it, we’re all going to be wandering around wondering if we’re way too attached to the material plane of existence, patting our pockets to make sure our cellphones are still there, muttering Edward Lear poetry and worrying about our insulin.

I think everybody needs to just sit down and have another French Fry.  And another.  And another…

potatoes

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About Author

George Gillson MD PhD.

Dr. Gillson obtained a PhD in Chemistry (Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy) in 1985 and worked in Research and Development for Perkin-Elmer/SCIEX before switching to a career in Medicine in 1988. He obtained an MD from the University of Calgary in 1991, and spent six years as a Family Practitioner. From July 1999 to July 2001, he was a staff physician with Jonathan Wright, MD at the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, WA, and maintained special interests in areas including steroid hormone testing and Multiple Sclerosis.

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