WHAT IS A SMILE?
In the realm of the Muses smile holds a privileged position. Here it appears in it’s original undistorted form, as a Platonian idea that, interacting with a biological substrate may inadvertently have an effect on or bring about some changes in a given psycho-socio-cultural milieu, but that is not its function. Putting the cart before the horse, some people may try to explain its existence through this very effect, determined to remain faithful to a methodology, for which they have purchased the subscription for a decade or two. This methodology is called functionalism. But the genuine smile has no primary purpose (even if it coincidentally acquires a secondary one), it has no teleological or immediate aims (even if it may be a reaction to a stimulus or a creative solution to a present problem) and is not a function (even if it may, as a by-product enhance some other evolutionary functionality). A politburo or a corporate customer service smile, on the other hand serves a function _ it therefore falls within the jurisdiction of the functionalist. But it is not a genuine smile. More about that in: “When A Smile is Not A Smile”
Smile in its essence, as the Muses understand it, is an expression, not cultural, not human but nature’s expression. It can crease your facial muscles, make flowers or coral fishes colorful or birds sing and dance or their forms and colors extremely fanciful, even if such paraphernalia maybe detrimental to their overall survival! Nature’s method to express herself, comes from a deep-rooted desire that has no purpose other than pure delight at expression. That why she bore the Muses, the singers, dancers, composers and the artists, even in the animal kingdom. They may or may not survive, but they emerge where they can.
Smile meant to express exactly that what Nature feels and not as a means for some other end. It is Hegelian phenomenology of the Geist, if you please, that is easily accessible to those willing, like the poets to wander through the realm of the Muses and barred for those with mechanistic orientation to the great brahmanic theatre-dream that the universe is playing, apparently for its own pleasure. Nature to all appearances does not care for survival since nothing survives, not even a bacteria. Depending upon where you are in time line, you may gain different insights. The fitter just surviving a bit longer than the unfit. Although the titanic saurian reptiles did not survive, they lived longer on this planet than the hominids till date. And some intelligent species of the future or from extraterrestrial sources or the machines we create may one day, looking at the evolutionary timeline at some point in future, declare us as having been unfit and not having survived. But we know we lived our lives and certainly did survive, but not forever but who does that? A relatively stable system, like an atom is not eternal either, although it may appear to be timeless and like an Aristotelian circle show neither a beginning nor an end, however it too is just another idea, in reality the electrons must have been captured somewhere in the timeline and will in time 'entropy' or 'blackhole' away. The perfect circle, the eternal noble atom and the ageless youth and eternity however are Platonian ideas, which lie hidden in our minds and are accessible to awareness only through intermediatories like the Muses. Nature may have in some other universe realized this idea. Not in ours. Out here she delights in expressing herself, which may reveal, amongst other things, her boundless pleasure in playing with appearances only to make them disappear and in profusion, extravaganza, exuberance and a lot of waste and may sometimes after literally vomiting ashes over complete biotopes, cities and even civilizations start her play all over again. And if mankind is experimenting with eternal youth, nature is too experimenting with new strains of deadly virus! Luxury & annihilation, both accomplished with a mechanistic predictability or religious spirituality, depending upon in which realm you have landed and are observing her behaviour.
Smile is just another such luxury, which although potentially present in all of us, however is overlaid with so much, which was originally not there that the smile rarely appears in it’s genuine form. But when it does, it may imbue color to the whole creation, which only a moment earlier appeared grey. Since the Muses were explicitly created to enhance the value of life, especially the human, it goes without saying, that spreading the smile is one of their missions in our world. Lesmosyne, the goddess of forgetfulness assists them thereby.
However if you are seeking scientific literature about the subject, I might tell you, you won't find one, that will shed light on its varied aspects and not reduce it something within a straitjacket of a certain school of thought, which if proved correct within the constraints of a certain specified contextual framework, however may invariably show a tendency toward becoming a universal paradigm, claiming hegemony over all other schools of thought, at least till another, more fashionable begins to gain sway, a phenomena quite familiar to historians of science. But some of these schools of thought may even go further and offer you an explanation for this ism-phenomenon itself within the framework of their Weltanschaung. Most often however they tend to brand market other schools of thought as rationalizations, magic, non-empirical, bourgeoisie, prelogical or worst just ignore them, as if they did not exist.
A lot of reductionism of course and each school with a myopic focus on some specific aspect of this great natural phenomenon. No doubt, smile by it's nature is a social phenomenon and may have survival advantages. But that is once again putting the cart before the horse. If it did not survive as a particularly advantageous evolutionary trait, does it mean that it never existed? Who knows how many smiling beings, human and non-human disappeared, without leaving a trace? How many smiling flowers & birds vanished? Or what kind of life smiled long before we did on some planet out there?
Certainly, both personal psychological and social. But psychologists and sociologists, who have mechanistic physics and Darwinist reductionist biology as their elementary theoretical framework, tend to forget that emotions like hate (that can be self-destructive as well as gene pool annihilating) as well as love and smile are not directly accessible to biology, they are product of superstructures that are, not only more than the sum of their respective parts but sometimes absolutely different than, what a logical summing of their parts would normally entail, even something opposed to the intentions of the individual parts or their collective "wishes". Organic cells found in multicellular organisms are also ideas frozen in time, each being timeless _ such cells can probably be recreated under specific conditions. They are almost always doing the same job with the same inevitability and may be relentlessly working toward something bigger and more 'important' of which they probably have no idea but which they may feel intuitively. But then a person, who kills himself or herself may fully disregard their existence, the existence of those, whose product he or she is and whose primary aim, at least according the sayings of the egoistic-gene theory propounders, should actually be survival at any cost. It is probably therefore no use seeking the answer in mechanistic oriented biology.
The answer may lie in the realm
of the Muses. It should come
therefore as no
big surprise that a very
enlightening book about the
subject has come from
literature rather than from
science or philosophy. Although
on occasions revealing a distinctively
functionalist approach, the
book, "The Act Of Creation" by
is an nice introduction to a
non-self-assertive form of
laughter and does
not wallow in reductionism. It
does not deal with smile
the approach taken here toward
an explanation of laughter is
fact Koestler was greatly
influenced by the gestalt
psychologist, and even, according to
Robert Wesson (1991) parapsychology,
nevertheless in this book, he
goes beyond a particular school
of thought and
has some very original
insights. Laughter according to
him has both the
(when it, more often than not
occurs at the
expense of others) and one, of
a purely reactive kind. The
latter implies the
presence of certain logical
patterns of thought (hmm...
platonian ideas? Kantian a
priori Givens? Jungian archetypical
symbols? Saussurean structural
present in the mind, imposed
like grammar in language, from
Someone from a realm lying outside that
biology and geography. Thoughts and
constrained within a given
contextual framework, however
can spring like
Greek gods from context to
context, from perspective to
almost the speed of electricity
flowing through a medium with
resistance because thinking
carries no extra baggage, there
less chemistry involved,
whereas the biological
substrata is burdened with
biochemistry__ hormones, pent
up muscular tensions,
counter-impulses, etc. etc.,
lot of karmic historical
baggage that turns
redundant and seeks an outlet
and manifests itself as
Nothing to do with survival strategies, even if the pent up energy involved here is an evolutionary trait, inherited through millions of years of evolution and fight for survival. This is Darwinism at it's best, since absolutely non-reductionistic.
The reductionist would have us believe that an Eye evolved fully mechanically without any "gestaltung" creative organizational principles playing a role. Read Koestler and you may get even an inkling of how awareness may have evolved. It maybe that long before Archimedean Eureka! nature has been shouting Eureka, every time she solved the problems, like finding solutions to temperature regulation or learning to encase the fertilized eggs of the vetebrates to conquer the land. Eureka, experienced by life non-verbally, only in rare cases emerging,like Buddha’s enlightenment in the human awareness or Kekule's snake in a dream!
Which, to speak in the language of the Muses, means that emotions are specific answers to a specific situation that nature "thought" appropriate without eyes focused on some long-term survival teleology. These emotions are creative reactions to momentary impulses not survival strategies or dumb responses! And they definitely interact with Platonian ideas given to mankind a priori. like some constants in mathematics.
Of course smile is not laughter, but just like laughter with it's self-assertive egoistical (Darwinist Mechanistic) aspect and a purely reactive (nevertheless creative) characteristic concerning a conflicting situation, that the Logos finds easy to reconcile without expending much energy, the smile too invokes symbols and Logos, whose meaning is a priori given, over a biological substrate of muscular "contortions", which is an evolutionary inheritance.
Nevertheless a smile like laughter can not be reduced to an biological imperative only, that evolution found advantageous for survival. Smile is more than the sum of the tit bits of evolution and its interaction with the logos, that is why some smiles can be healing and cathartic, something that a reductionist would have hard time to explain away. A smile that is not meant for one's own advantage, for the kith and kin, the race, the species (gene-pool) but for existence itself. A delight, a pleasure at existence.
A platonian idea, if you please! I would prefer to call it, the song of the Muses, meant for the playful delight that Nature seems to have in creation. Nature is creative not a mechanistic machine! Certainly slow in it's biological reactions but nevertheless in possession of sometimes envious organizational talent. She may not be able to create a supersonic jet with a deafening roar or great fanfare, but can make a bird cross the oceans noiseless and almost invisible with a few calories not tank loads of fuel, leaving hardly a trace in the sky and with an enviable freedom of manoeuvre & dexterity . They don't need airports and runways and fully concentrated control-tower-operator, they can choose where to land and all of these capabilities are available any time of the day. These are not dumb mechanistic responses to environmental stimuli, but creative solutions. And all these men and women, who have a mechanistic Weltanschaung toward nature are strangely her children, they did not create themselves, mother nature did that!
The flowers smile even when we are not there to see them. On the other hand smiles that are fake and mentioned elsewhere in these pages, are usually assigned values that fit well with the egoistic gene theories. They primarily apply to the hypertrophied primate brain and to a lesser extent to certain species of passerine birds and some mammalian orders that practice "aware" deception
Or all smiles fake? Or all real? Or which one is real and which one fake?
Don't ask me? Ask Yourself?
Or ask the Muses!
But they will answer you, only when you smile and of course that will be the answer!
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