I got rhythym. You got rhythym. But no great ape does! Chimps and gorillas give no evidence of a sense of rhythm. They don’t synchronize with one another and can’t hold a steady beat. William Benzon, a neuro-cognitive scientist and musician, studied the rhythmic structure of human speech communication. He discovered a close synchrony between a speaker and a listener, which he described as “interactional synchrony.” In his book, Beethoven’s Anvil, he writes, “A listener’s body movements lag about forty-two milliseconds behind the vocal patterns of the speaker, like a car following a continuously rapidly curving road. Infants exhibit near adult competence at interactional synchrony within twenty minutes of birth. Synchrony creates a space of communicative interaction, a coupling between two brains in which EACH CAN AFFECT THE OTHER’S INTERNAL STATES.”
“Interactional synchrony.” Fancy name for The Big Dance. First couple on the floor: mama and her new-born.
Melanie recognized projecting the emotional complexities of one’s inner world into someone else is a fundamental mechanism of the mind. She named it, “Projective Identification.” It begins, using the felicitous geometry of Benzon, in a space of communicative interaction where a coupling of the mother’s mind with that of her new-born begins. It is the sole birthing grounds, unmapped and unrecognized for a thousand centuries, of Man. It is where a new-born pushes its unthinkable thoughts into the innards of the mother. If this space of communicative interaction is not accessible, as in the Romanian institutions. Or is suddenly closed, as with Anna and her absent mother, the result is catastrophic. Interactional synchrony – its dynamics identical with projective identification – provides passage from the closed world of biology to the infinite universe of the Mind. There is no other route. Every human being who ever lived came this way. That goes for Romulus and Remus. Sure, a wolf briefly suckled them, and a woodpecker fed them, but a devoted couple raised them. Not caretakers. Foster parents, Mom and Pop.
I want to pause here and following instructions from the great prophet, Samuel, ask Pro-Lifers to LISTEN! No zygote ever enters the space of communicative interaction. No zygote ever suffers unthinkable thoughts. It has no thoughts. Projective identification through the mother’s mind? The very notion is beyond absurd. Yet no mind ever comes into existence except by journeying through another mind. Everyone who has ever studied The Calculus, for example, journeys through the mind of Newton. It takes the iconic ten thousand hours to master. Where is there mind in the programmed, cascading biologic reactions leading to and creating a zygote? A sperm fertilizes an egg in nothing flat. In that instant, you Pro-Lifers claim, “Behold, a Citizen of the State!” The speed from zygote to a full-grown human being, perhaps a citizen checking out his constitutional rights, makes Usain Bolt, the fastest man who ever ran on the Good Earth, a stick-in-the-mud!
Aware of the urgent need for healing and borrowing an eloquence that rings across nearly five centuries, Pro-Lifers, I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, whom many of you worship, think it possible that you may be mistaken.