Baritone Notes pt. 2 – Gut Feelings

So, carrying on with what we were saying last article, we’re looking at the Baritone voice, the “deep-colour” voice, and how this parallels our need for self-centered, instinctual balance and what we described as, hara no aru hito. The phrase means, literally, “the man with belly (hara).”


There is another “body language” aspect to this region of the body, and that’s the expression “gut instinct” or “gut feeling.”

This is, of course, an expression that means, “intuition,” and can have the connotation of someone who is excellent at “flying by the seat of their pants.”

(I will keep mentioning these body language expressions, as I believe we take them for granted to our detriment. To repeat, body language is specific and refers, often across cultures, to a consistent body region. Thus, never do we read about someone having an “armpit instinct” and “flying by the hem of their shirt.” This is “not for nothing.”)

There are two possible explanations for the idea of gut instinct. The first is the simple biological fact that we feel sensations of danger in our bowels.

I was listening to or reading something the other day, and the point being made was that one of Patton’s greatest assets as a warrior was his amazing sphincter control. This is a big deal, as the “fight or flight” mechanism is actually designed to focus blood and attention to the head and deep body structures, and away from such “trivialities” as sphincters. Generals who don’t “lose it” in battle are a good thing.

The gut instinct, first and foremost, is a bodily twitch in the digestive tract. From this has come the concept that each of us, to some degree or another, has bodily instincts regarding the direction we should walk. Or run.

As we look back to the African savannah, it was the liquid, squishy feeling inside that something was creeping up on us in the tall grass. Time to run, or time to make a stand. Notice that a whole lot of mental activity around this was likely going to get one killed – you had a feeling and you reacted.

And we’re the descendents of the survivors.

Think about it. That you are here is the direct and inescapable result of your forebears staying alive long enough to reproduce. They had enough brains, or at least enough courage or cowardice to keep their heads attached to their bodies.

Those with a feckless disregard for personal safety are now part of the bogs and marshes, their contribution to the gene pool long ago snuffed out.

This is important stuff. The reason we trust our guts is because our forebears did. It’s genetically hard-wired into our beings. Creepy feeling = danger. Peaceful, easy feeling = song by the Eagles or “time for a nap in the grass.”

We’re abuzz with feelings all the time.

It’s like we’re being fed a slip stream of data, and as the data enters through our senses, or perhaps somehow even before, our bodies are doing a preliminary analysis and making decisions that get played out bio-electrically and chemically.

That this is so, is simple to “intuit.” Think of a tiger chasing a gazelle. Do you really think the tiger is thinking through her turns and doing a whole lot of mental stuff to figure out when to pounce? Nope. She’s “running on instinct.” She’d deciding based on her gut feelings.

What I’m getting at here is, in addition to being humans, we’re mammals. Animals. Much of what happens to us is below the conscious level. We are acted upon at a bodily level. And the body of knowledge we carry is in our bodies.

It’s not the only game in town. It’s simply one of the players. Or, in keeping with our quartet metaphor, our instincts are 1/5th of a group of four singers and a director. All important. All necessary. And all needing to be “just right.”

Oh. The other explanation of “gut feeling” comes from Greece. The Oracle of Delphi, to be exact.

On the morning of a day when the Oracle was scheduled to prophesy, a goat would be sacrificed at an altar just outside of the great Temple of Apollo, and its entrails would be examined.

In other words, the oracle made her predictions by examining the intestines of a goat. Thus, the prediction, the “here’s what to do in the future” pronouncement — was the result of “feeling guts.”

We’ll leave that side of the equation alone.

Anyway, while a gut feeling whilst wandering in a dark alley likely is best heeded without thought, most of the time we’re not in mortal danger. We’re interacting with others, in business and in our personal lives.

Yet, despite the veneer of civility that modern life affords, our bodies never cease in providing clues and warnings. A tightened muscle here, and clenched sphincter there, all happening just outside of consciousness. Valuable information. Now, what do we do with it?

Well, we bring it into consciousness, with balance.

  • A “too hot” version of the gut check is the person who “just knows” something, and nothing, including evidence to the contrary, will dissuade her from her gut-driven path. The classic case is the person who is fearful of failing, who “feels” that anything beyond the norm is going to be a disaster, and who chooses to stay stuck and do nothing rather than risk “sticking her neck out.” Because, on the savannah, if you stick your neck out of the tall grass, someone might bite your head off. Again, please note the language.
  • The “too cold” version is the person who over-thinks and under-feels. “Hi! I’m Spock and I’m a human computer.” “Hi, Spock!” Stereotypically, this is the male who coldly and logically argues for the “right, practical, logical” position. Feelings are to be ignored, and intuitions are nonsense.Imagine the fun when these two meet and decide to get married. Lordy, lordy, and it happens a whole lot.

  • The “just right” position is one that gives credence and a healthy respect to ones gut feelings.

“The new” is scary for everyone – and not everyone will admit that. Often, the fear is justified, and the fear needs to be listened to.

I was driving home this week, from Port Elgin, in a snowstorm. At night. I learned to drive in Buffalo, so I know from snow.

  • There was one voice screaming, “Get a motel room! Don’t drive another kilometre!”
  • Another voice was singing “Macho, macho man.”
  • My guts were only a little “tight,” and the bodily feeling was wary attentiveness.
  • My heart wanted to be home with Dar. (awwwww.)
  • My head was weighing the options.
  • And the Director of the drama listened to all of it, and I remember saying, “Well, we’re driving 30 km/ph. We’re not going to die. We could end up in a ditch, but there’s not much snow on the road, just in the air, swirling around. Let’s go for it.”

Needless to say, I made it home.

Wisdom is becoming more and more aware, and part of the increased awareness is a focus on me, and my body, not just or principally my head. Awareness, as opposed to life on auto-pilot, requires a firm grip and a roving eye, as I take in what is happening while staying conscious. Not easy, but better than the alternative.

Next week, the realm of the heart – our emotions.

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