The river of life
Practical exercises to gain life off a leash, 2021
Based on the materials of the report by I.P. Pavlov "Reflex of Freedom"
(co-authored with Dr. M.M. Gubergrits)
Video 30:00 min; Authors: Olga Tsaplya Egorova, Nina Gasteva, Mikhail Ivanov and the labrador Coyra; Camera: Andrey Nesteruk

"This game was an exit to the territory of freedom which Pavlov as independent person needed"
In his report "Freedom Reflex" read in 1917 Ivan Petrovich Pavlov cites the results of a series of experiments staged with the participation of an unusual dog. While participating in experiments related to the development of food reflexes, she could not calmly stay in the experimental machine, which, although it did not cause pain, constrained her movement. She was constantly torn, thrown herself, tried to run. Despite the fact that after several months of various experiments, scientists still managed to discipline the dog and put its salivation at the service of science, this behavior returned almost immediately after the experimental machine was removed.

Based on these observations, Pavlov concludes that there is a separate, innate unconditioned reflex, which he calls the "reflex of freedom." This reflex is inherent in all living organisms. If it were not for him, any weak would submit to the strong at the slightest manifestation of his power. And this would completely interrupt the flow of all life.

It is interesting that in his report Pavlov also speaks about the opposite reflex — the reflex of slavery, which also has a certain life justification: if resistance is impossible then one must surrender to the will of the winner. At least temporarily.

In conclusion of his report Pavlov notes that the reflex of slavery is often and manifold manifested on Russian soil. As an example, he cites Kuprin’s short story "The River of Life", which "describes the suicide of a student whose conscience was seized by the betrayal of his comrades in the secret police. From the letter of the suicide it is clear that the student has become a victim of the reflex of slavery, inherited from the mother-in-law. If he understood this well, firstly, he would judge himself more justly, and secondly, he could use systematic measures to develop in himself a successful arrest, suppression of this reflex ".

Actually, we have devoted our work to the elaboration of these systematic measures. In his report, Pavlov does not give us any practical recommendations on how exactly these reflexes can be delayed or suppressed. In our practical lessons we had to look for our own ways. In this we, firstly, relied on the experience of the dog that took part in the Pavlov’s experiment. However despite the fact that her behavior was described in some detail in Pavlov’s text, we realized that we would not be able to use it in practice. The freedom reflex is such a reflex that is constantly in the making so we needed a live, not yet described dog, with which we could build our common experience. That is why one of the members of our team was the labrador dog Coyra.

The second point of our reflections and practices was the game of gorodki (kind of Skittles). Ivan Petrovich was very fond of this game and indulged in it with passion until the very old age. Apparently, for him, this game was an exit to the territory of freedom, which this independent person needed.

In addition, we have long been interested in the possibility (or impossibility) of life "off the leash", in which the issues of mutual control, power and suppression can be solved in a different way from the usual way. Therefore, one beautiful summer day, we went to the park in order to reinvent the game of gorodki, the rules of which will not only suit all members of our team but also contribute to the development and strengthening of the reflex of freedom in us.