Close your eyes and imagine your body, immersed in a huge network of traveling information. Imagine your five senses--sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch--interfering with the information crossing this network. And imagine your brain as a device that sorts them and translates some of them in a language you know: colors, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. So far this sounds quite easy to imagine. But does this translation signed by your brain end there? Do you receive information other than colors, shapes, sounds, tastes, smells, or textures?
Let us resume our former experiment. Close your eyes and imagine again that you are looking at a square red canvas. Thanks to the reactions triggered by the red photons in your eyes, your brain receives information from the outside, like a fax machine receives telephonic information. Your brain translates this information into color and shape: the canvas is red and square. But while looking at this canvas, do you receive information other than its color and shape? Wash your eyes well with the red drops coming to them, then take the red canvas away and replace it with a black one. What happens? How does it feel? Are your emotions the same in front of the red canvas and the black one?
Are your emotions the same in front of other canvases like the Water Lilies by Claude Monet or The Scream by Edvard Munch or the Venus by Botticelli? If our emotions were the same in front of all of these paintings, the question is why these masters bothered so much to paint them; and what, after all, is the difference between a portrait painted by Picasso and the drawing of a child? If, however, your emotions are altered by different paintings, where does this change come from? What has changed but a very thin layer of molecules that covers the canvases? Could your emotions be related to this thin layer of molecules? Could your emotions be caused by the reaction of your own molecules?
We usually believe that emotions belong to the domain of the mind, because emotions bring back memories and lead to thoughts and dreams; they also trigger imagination and can even invade our whole mind. But is it true that emotions belong only to the domain of the mind? Could your emotions have their source in the activity of your molecules? Could your emotions also be information coming from matter that is interpreted by your mind--information received at the end of a long chain of reactions, triggered by your sensations? Are your emotions born from matter? If they are, shouldn’t they be “located” at the “interface” between your body and your mind? Is there such a domain?
Mind is a word that has a very broad meaning. It is, therefore, not easy to talk about mind in a context that is slightly more scientific than usual. Nevertheless, it seems that mind has many aspects. One of them might have a behavior similar to that of our molecules: it is in constant agitation and can, like our molecules, be transformed in the blink of an eye. I am speaking of that aspect of mind we commonly refer to as our “state of mind” or simply our mood. Undeniably this aspect of our mind is affected by our emotions. A sound, a word, a smile, a touch, or a look might change our mood in an instant.
If our mood is dictated by our emotions, and if these are affected by the movement of our molecules, this means that our mood is dictated by the movement of our molecules. Is it so? Let’s investigate further.
Is your mood affected by the scenery and the colors around you? Do you have the same emotional response whether you are closed up in your house on a stormy day or lying on a beach under the sun? Do you respond the same way to a devastated landscape as you do to a plantation of flowering peach trees? Do you believe your molecules are not involved here? When this molecular system that is you has been drastically modified--after an amputation, for example, or plastic surgery, or even simply by having your hair dyed--are your emotions affected? If so, do you think these effects have been triggered by something other than the reactions of your molecules?
Can exercise change your state of mind? Some say that the principal aim of disciplines such as yoga, tai chi, or aikido is to change your mind-set. And what is physical activity if not a boost to some of your molecules? What about music? Don’t we say that it can change our state of mind? Don’t some pieces of music sometimes soothe you when your mind is tormented? And how do we hear a noise if not via the chemical reactions triggered in our brain by the vibrations of the tympanum? Some believe that even what we eat has an impact on our state of mind. Do you think that some dishes could excite you? And some teas calm you? And what is food if not chemical products that maintain the activity of your cells?
Here is another striking example: antidepressants. No one can deny that antidepressants act on our state of mind. However, like any other drug, their role is to offer our molecules other partners and make them take other trajectories. How would a change in the direction of your molecules affect your mood? I am not even referring here to recreational drugs, those that are proscribed, which specifically affect the mind, such as cannabis, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, certain mushrooms, and so on.
Clearly, our emotions are directly related to our molecules. Our mood, that is, our state of mind, could be “a facet of mind that touches matter,” and our emotions can be imagined like a bridge or an interface between matter and mind.