The brain is stupendously good at picking battles. Listen to this.
The sound of the news coming from the radio plucked me, against my will, from that calm sea of cataleptic forgetfulness we call sleep. Forgetfulness, some might say, is the wrong term for a state in which we spend up to a third of our brief lives comatosed like a patient about to undergo surgery and who’s just been injected with propofol or some other anaesthetic and asked to count slowly to ten. For even in this paralyzed state, eyes closed, we see the strangest apparitions, hear the scariest voices, confront our scatty demons and sometimes soar through the air or ocean wielding harmless battle axes against equally harmless bandits. Our brains, wired up with their one hundred trillion synapses or some such uncountable number, never to go to sleep!
“That is loud, I mean wtf on a Sunday morning. Now I can understand if the time was 10 o’clock”. I laid in bed and struggled to galvanize my feeble energies to go knock on my neighbour’s door and demand they turn the radio down. I finally opened my eyes and turned to look at the clock and by gad it had just gone past 10 o’clock. Obviously this would not be worth retelling if this event happened every Sunday at the same time like clockwork but this, I swear, is the very first time I’ve been woken up in this fashion. Isn’t it amazing when our brains do this? We easily remember those countless times we go to bed thinking we really ought to wake up at six because [insert reason] and bam! at one minute to six we are wide awake. If this happens often enough we start to believe we are supermen eh, we think things and they come to pass. Just like they say in positive thinking circles or prosperity gospel sermons. Think and grow rich. It’s that easy.
Wait a minute. How come this never happens at bonus time? You can see the glum faces of colleagues as they come out of their reporting managers’ rooms after they’ve been recounted the same spiel as the year before: “You know with the economy as it is the company hasn’t done as well as we wanted BUT we really value your contribution and despite what’s happening in the business we’ve been able to find you a bonus of [.]” Like you, they probably did their best to mask the disappointment. All those neurons over the preceding days working up an expectation of a bonus large enough to pay off the mortgage or buy a Ferrari. Those neurons were wrong. They picked the wrong battle.
One of the craziest things about the learning process is how what at first appears difficult looks ridiculously easy and obvious when you go back and review the material. I spent the whole of last week working through the first half of Aaron Hillegass’ Objective-C Programming book – Objective-C is the programming language Apple uses for its operating system – and by Friday my brain was totally fried. I went to bed thinking “Whatever”.
Saturday morning and I I thought, “OK I’ll just start from the beginning and read it through” and voila it jut popped into place. All made sense! So now I’m going through the second half of the book and I know my experience will be just the same. Things like this constantly remind me that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just because the road looks impassable doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution to getting from here to over there. And just because the will wants to give up doesn’t mean it can’t win.
If at first we don’t succeed we should find a better solution. Never give up.
Can you raed this? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
– Reblogged from smoewhere
Which enlightened soul hasn’t heard it a million times and more that the brain is the most sophisticated machine nature ever created? Its fifteen to thirty billion neurons form a complex processor that no human computer is yet able to match, a day we all dread. What’s scary about the brain is that although we can live without anything else (we can even have artificial hearts), we cannot live without our brains. And when you can’t live without something, you are its slave.
If your brain isn’t there as in “there” you may as well be dead. We can’t reason or act without it. We can’t think without it or fall in love or feel pleasure or pain. Some people think the heart is where love is but they are so wrong. You won’t stop loving if you get an artificial heart. But the brain; this is where everything that matters to living is. Short circuit the brain and kaput goes the human. My shoulder is in pain right now from a bad fall at jujitsu training. My shoulder is in pain but it’s my brain that’s telling me so. If I had morphine to short circuit the brain, I’d be pain free.
I have a big issue with the brain. My brain. It demands a lot of fucking energy. It’s two percent of my body weight but requires 20% of my oxygen intake and 25% of my glucose. I have to keep breathing or it dies or rather, I die. A few seconds sans blood and I’m on my way to The Beyond. One third of my living existence must be comatose in sleep to give the brain a rest. And a massive chunk of the time I have left awake was in education to bring the brain up to scratch. I can’t stop thinking with my brain, even unpleasant and painful thoughts like death or poverty or why I am still a small cheese. My brain goes on and on and on. In order to stop it, I have to short circuit the thinking process by actively thinking of something else. It’s rather like being dumped by an ex, you hurt until you shift your attention.
I am resigned to the fact that my brain requires, no, demands constant caring. Trouble ensues if it doesn’t get what it wants. It becomes bored and that’s a very dangerous place to be. If the brain isn’t engaged in something interesting and pleasurable, it will find something to do and not always good. If you try to muzzle the brain’s attempt to enjoy itself you will eventually lose the desire to live. Scientists say nature abhors a vacuum. Well, the brain abhors boredom. Boredom is the empty space between moments of pleasure. That’s why the brain is such a highly addictive creature: sex, flammable love experiences, food, sugar, sloth, alcohol, television, sports, even books. At its worst, boredom can lead to hard drugs, crime and war. We humans are like rats, running around day and night, weekdays and weekends, trying to keep our minds occupied. The Devil finds things for idle hands to do.
But in order to break any destructive brain addiction you need a heavy dose of willpower. And where does the will come from? You got it. You need the brain to cure the brain. Man, some say, is free. I have come to proclaim that we ain’t. Our brains have us by the bollocks.