broke to begin (brains!)

1 06 2009

from san antonio

i was rudely awakened by a thoughtless cur this morning:   he wanted to talk about feelings, which made me so sick i had to drop a barf immediately.  to be honest, i did not drop a barf, but i learned this phrase from a particularly excellent dinosaur comic last week, and i needed to create an opportunity to repeat it.

observe the dinosaur comic of which i speak!

but really!  about feelings!  i have certain information on the human brain that may or may not help us understand what may or may not be difficult physiological circumstances.  ready?  okay.

biologists/evolutionists who study the brains of animals (of which humans are one) have noted that the brain tends to grow in layers according to evolutionary advancement.  a reptile’s brain, for instance, for the most part is comprised of one major “survival” region only:  it regulates body function and allows the reptile to control motor functions and processes sensory information.  but that’s about all.  so lizards, as best we can tell, survive and procreate as best they can, according to their hard wiring, and, according to their needs, they live by routine and regularity.

a step “up” the evolutionary brain ladder (the quotation marks denote my lack of willingness to judge one way or the other whether having a more complex brain is necessarily a positive or negative difference; perhaps to say that having a more complex brain is to more properly sit the fence), some animals have evolved to develop another general layer of the brain.  around the reptilian complex, they have a newer kind of brain matter that basically controls what we call the limbic system.  this is an interesting turn in survival function, because this system marked the advent of feelings, which, beyond making some intelligent animals want to drop a barf, apparently aid in survival by allowing circumstantial memory to be tied a sense of safety or danger.  for instance, if a cat (which has a developed limbic part o’ the brain) one day hears a clanging and is shortly thereafter attacked by a horde of mentally imbalanced chickens, the cat will, should it survive, then be able to tie the emotion of fear to the sound of clanging, and will startle, go on alert, and probably run when next a clang is heard.  it’s a nonthinking logic that seems to have helped “higher-brained” animals be able to avoid more danger through experience.  also, it helps cats justify their bitchiness when you want to pet them but they remember a time when you were petting them and accidentally got too close to their stomachs and it pissed them off and now even though you’re petting their head and they like it, they’re gonna bite you and be pissy for a little while.  flap the tail all you want, kitty, i’ll touch your belly when you’re sleepy and more pliable.

the most complex brain that we know of today is the human brain, of course, because we have a fully developed limbic system and a new layer of brain beyond that, which is called the neocortex.  here, we have logic!  which we love about ourselves; we have the ability to reason through a situation and decide about its potential benefits or detriments even if we’ve never been in a situation like it.  amazing!  really, it is pretty neat, working through conceptual logic and making decisions.  i like to call logic our “dry run machine.”  it’s great because really, we hardly have to bother living if we use our minds to think through living enough.  and thank god for that.  whichever god you like (use your logic to figure out which god you like, by the way, since there’s not a single god among the many, many gods that will show its face to us).

anyway, i was thinking about habits and fears and the way we conduct our lives and brain physiology and i realized that we may truly be stuck in the middle of a cruel turn of nature.  we have logic, sure, and that’s great, but we also have highly developed limbic systems, which means that it’s not really surprising to know that we, as people, continually make stupid decisions that make no sense.  it seems to me as though there’s a great mash-up going on in our skulls all of the time, in which logic and emotions don’t always find ways to harmoniously coexist.  so we end up treating novel situations in our lives as though they have relation to our conceptual beliefs about them, which can only be informed by emotional garbage.  like…  this is what happens when someone watches the news and, despite never having been to mexico, fears going there because they’ve seen reports of drug war violence killing innocent people, and then, by logical-emotional extension, fears mexican people who live in their town.  there is no personal experience that teaches the emotions to react negatively; there is no logical sense to fearing people who have done nothing wrong.  and yet the “advanced” human brain allows for this disharmony to exist.

or!  like if one was totally smothered in one relationship with this one controlling girl, and got out of that, but then dated this other girl, who was completely different and even her hair was different, but got freaked out when she wanted to hold his hand because the clasp felt illogically like a shackle she was putting on him to keep him where she wanted him and was a symbol of control to his brain, which should be able to recognize that it’s a different person with probably completely different points of unforgivable departure from sanity, and shouldn’t i figure out what those are first, before i freak out and pretend i am going into anaphylactic shock and have to leave immediately so i can get to my epi pen before i am dead and see you later?  i mean HE, not I!  i should, but my emotionally twisted logics confuse the issue and make things difficult for all of us.

my point is, my friends, that it’s tough up there, and we’re not the evolutionary apex of good animaldom, and we should cut ourselves a little slack.  our heads are complicated places, and when we feel crazy or things aren’t adding up or we’re angry or upset where we know (or don’t know) we probably shouldn’t be, it’s maybe a good idea to consider that our brains aren’t sympathetic to the convolutions of reality that it produces and presents to us.  it’s kind of a mess that evolution has handed to us, and being left to wire our own thinking systems probably requires better planning than we generally allow time for.
heck, i don’t know, i gots a stupid brain.




One response

4 06 2009
red poncho bear

i gotta say. this friend of yours, he can’t afford to invest in a little feeling can he? yes, sadly, times have changed, you know, with interactive software and all. wave of the future. i still incur feelings manually though. you know, the brain is the largest erogenous zone? on some people, maybe. well, is this enough of a comment to say thanks for talking to “your friend”. . .i mean, the thoughtless cur? i’m sure he appreciated it and all. now go meditate. supposedly the brain looks frickin’ wicked on magnetic resonance imaging equipment when you’re meditating. just imagine the light show going on in your brain next time you have a sit.

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