Perhaps sometimes, like me, you have taken a night flight to some intended destination. Once at 32,000 feet in the clear night sky, you look down on large cities, urban complexes, smaller towns, villages and even tiny hamlets. There are also likely periods during the flight of total blackness and others with only the occasional light or tiny cluster of lights visible at all. Sometimes it has occurred to me on such a flight that that might in some ways resemble what we would see, looking down and in, as it were, on the human brain. (We might come even a little closer and clearer with this analogy, were the lights of the city to be “firing” as in something like a massive lighting display rather than remaining passively lit, as street and other night lights are designed to do and therefore do from the air).
These ‘cities’ then of constantly “firing” lights (each individually known as a “synapse”)* might represent the major areas of brain activity, for example, sight, hearing, touch, smell, each with evident pathways of association between them. Smaller ‘communities’ would also be represented, depending upon individual interest and activity. And what of the black and apparently inactive areas? Well of them you would know very little if anything, although you would of course expect them to carry major services in the form of water, power, sewerage disposal etc. together with a network of minor roads (representing, by analogy, the brain’s network of tiny capillary blood vessels).
However we look at and consider the human brain then, we are inevitably and invariably faced with the massive and undisputed truth; namely that the human kind – young and old, male and female – is a miraculous and complex, indeed inextricable ‘mix’ of electro-chemical, neural and endocrinological (hormonal) causes and effects·. These it is that control, regulate and exert a significant “knock on” effect, on every conscious, subliminal and unconscious happening; be it a voluntary movement of hand or foot, the involuntary heartbeat or smooth (involuntary) muscle contraction, or the spontaneous and telling impact of personality, temperament and/or previous learning. It is quite impossible for most of us even to begin to conceive of how, in the course of an average day, some 10 trillion discreet ‘firing’ sequences will occur, all within the 3 lbs or so of grey, white and watery substance etc. that make up the human brain.).
All this and much more beside is to hand, ready to support optimal coping; and waiting, not so much for anything so dramatic and unlikely, by analogy, as Thomas Huxley’s “tropical climate” ( see para3 of Jan 12th’s posting) but merely a readiness to simplify things, very much within the context and spirit of what is contained within this series of blogs by, for example, not attempting to live a fortnight, or a week, or even a day at a time, but rather moment by moment, which is after all, the way that our “brainpower” flows and is provided. This is in no way to suggest that we should not or need not ever be unmindful of our regular (and otherwise) ’agenda’ of future events and activities. The maxim then must most surely be therefore: plan, organize and ‘cater’ for the future; but don’t fall into the trap of trying to ‘live in it’. For as we have witnessed again and again in much earlier blogs posted on this website, where we try to live tomorrow or this or next week on today’s resource of energy – however we elect to expend it, i.e. physically, emotionally or psychically – we are likely to end up not coping with today. We ‘live’ in, what we only ever in all consciousness only ever truly have; namely, the “now”. (C)SB.
* Nerve impulses are caused to pass from one nerve fibre to another, end to end, via a “synapse”. This amounts to a tiny gap at which point is triggered an electrical impulse – simultaneously with (and from mili-second to mili-second), a chemical substance known as a neurotransmitter, i.e. serotonin, dopamine etc. is released. This, in turn triggers and ‘fire’s the appropriate neural response from the one to the next neurone and so on. Neuroscientists estimate that in certain single cells, in excess of 15,000 such “synapses” occur.