Warning! If you’re squeamish about sex, do not read the following account! Perhaps foolishly, I have chosen to have the courage to reveal to my readers a part of my inner consciousness. It is about being able to enjoy dividing one’s attention and successfully benefiting from both sources of information. It may be thought of as a kind of abstract expressionism in words, a mish-mash of thought and semi-thought or pre-thought, a Freudian stream of consciousness, if that helps the reader to extend even an iota of empathy to the writer.

Limbic Tango

I know I must be cautious about being too much in touch with my limbic system, also known as the paleomammalian cortex. It’s a powerful part of the brain. It can also be thought of as the “base brain” because it is located at the base of the brain and because it has base, paleomammalian concerns. It is responsible for a host of things that our larger cerebrums and cerebellums do not process. Emotion, behaviour, motivation, olfactory recognition, long-term memory, are some of the base brain’s processes.

When the limbic system is activated, people often refer to something called “gut reaction,” because they believe they feel something in their guts or at least they feel a more centrally located stimulus in their bodies than their normal brain activity provides. The nervous system does have a neural highway from the brain down the spine to its terminus (in the lower reaches of the body), before it branches out into the lower appendages. Maybe it’s that branching-off spot that people feel as their “guts.” Maybe this is what compels so many men to try to think with the “little head,” at the other end of the neural pathway.

In support of this thesis, I offer the following account of my recent day at a special art exhibit.

The show was called, “Mystical Landscapes.” It was a special show at the AGO, (Art Gallery of Ontario). It featured works by Van Gogh, Gaugin, Monet, Munch, Lauren Harris, Emily Carr and many other well-known, accomplished artists. I was there to look at the paintings and get what I could get from them, which was a lot. I particularly liked some bright and airy, energetic, sky paintings by Emily Carr that I had not seen prior to this show. Those paintings revelled in a kind of joyous energy in paint, in observation, in the expression of being human, enjoying what nature provides. They were wonderful paintings. I’m glad I saw them.

Much of what I was doing there was a very cerebral, analytical process. Why did a particular composition elicit this response from me? What did I see in the juxtaposition of shapes and colours that caused me to respond the way I did? How had the artist conveyed his/her vision to the viewer?

I am well prepared to engage in this kind of inner dialogue because I spent years painting and have taken more Art History courses than I can quickly count. I have written about art. At the exhibit, I had a few occasions to exchange short observations with others around me. All very cerebral, I thought.

Then a curvy woman in tight clothes strolled by me. All my attention should have been on the paintings. All my cerebral attentions were on the paintings, but my limbic system responded to her presence. I felt her presence in my guts. I looked closely at the paintings but I kept track of her in my peripheral vision. I always knew where she was in the room. She strolled casually between me and the painting I was studying. Oh my! Oh my!


My eyes barely shifted. It only took a fraction of a second for my eyes and base-brain to register and remember the lovely curving lines of her small breasts, her slightly protruding belly, the way the line of her profile recurved just above her pubis and was complemented by her ample, well-rounded posterior. In some alternate reality, I’d probably start following her around, possibly even crudely sniffing the air in her wake!

I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” Then I turned that around and asked again, “What is right with me?” I know that it is not wrong for a male to be sexually attracted to a female. How he expresses that attraction is another issue entirely. I know I can’t go sniffing after her, even though in my guts I’d like to do just that. No! I keep my eyes on the paintings. I keep my mind on the paintings. I don’t allow my guts to do more than entertain my limbic system with a background fantasy of gently pulling her aside, giving her some quick, passionate courting in a dark recess of the gallery and helping her to peel off her skin-tight blue jeans to allow my prurient intentions to proceed.

I never even acknowledged her presence. We didn’t make eye-contact. I observed her discreetly. I saw her observe me discreetly. So what? So nothing! It was only my dumb-stupid, beastly, limbic system out there in the otherwise sophisticated ether of the gallery, copulating wildly with her limbic system, as the rest of the gallery-goers were either unaware of our tango, or they feigned disinterest in our dance, just as she and I had feigned disinterest in each other. As whole people, she and I never touched. We never spoke. We only saw. See-saw. Up and down. In and out. Intense, grunting and sloppy. Like animals! Who cares about paintings when the sweetly rank scent of lust is in the air?

Luckily for me, cerebral processes continue to prevail over my primitive, elemental limbic system. The limbic system rarely gets its way in the normal course of life. I do fully understand that such a passion as my limbic system fabricated as a wild fantasy could only be realized by consent, which would be improbable, or as some kind of urgent, life-affirming antidote to horrific chaos, like letting our inhibitions go as we huddled for warmth among the beseiged ruins of Leningrad, which I wouldn’t have cared to have experienced.

My day at the gallery was a success. I saw interesting paintings and interesting people. I was stimulated by all parts of my brain. It made me feel whole in every way that counts. Ah, art!