Twice in one day the brain and its capacities are in the media. Both discussions are engaging and provactive. One is controversial.
First up, a story from NPR. Author Virginia Woolf eloquently described the constant stream of consciousness that eventually becomes cohesive thought from which we draw conclusions and take action. From the on-air story:
Woolf thought, and thought hard, about how a mind processes all that it sees, hears, feels, tastes, remembers. "The mind receives a myriad of impressions," Woolf wrote. "From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms," and she wanted to describe that process.
And so, Woolf created minds in action. Clarissa Dalloway in her novel Mrs. Dalloway, and Mrs. Ramsay from To the Lighthouse are portrayed from the inside out. They are all mind — jumbles of thoughts, memories, faces, objects, peeves, joys — all disconnected and incoherent. And yet, out of all that blabber there emerge very distinctly, real personalities. How did that happen? "If the mind is so evanescent," Lehrer writes, "how does the self arise?"
It's a fascinating interview and story. The text is on the NPR site, but it is well worth the five minutes it takes to actually listen. For anyone who has experienced racing thoughts, the story is absolutely enlightening. One of the most interesting facts to emerge from the research is that there is no command center for the brain. The work is done in separate but connected areas where it figures how to work with all of the other departments. Sounds like a good management strategy to me, unless the hippocampus wins and puts the temporal lobe in a key position, and then we're all going to be taking medication and pondering the meaning of life or how to just end it.
The second media blast of the day was Larry King talking to people who think we can just choose happiness and there it will be. Uhhhh, yeah. The metaphysics guy (from "What the Bleep do we Know?") wasn't so strict about considering other possibilities, but the other people, including a pharmacologist, would not be swayed from their if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-become-it view.
Still, they say we can change our moods, our thought processes, our emotions and our chronic poor health with a simple decision to be different. I say, Have you met me? I can be perky and positive, for sure, but it hasn't done a thing for my multiple health problems. Anyway, you can link to http://www.candacepert.com/, the website of Candace Pert, pictured here. She has written two books on the subject. Her main philosophy is that people don't need antidepressants; they just need a soul overhaul, better daily affirmations, and a more positive outlook and the brain will respond with health and bliss. She claims that because she is highly credentialed in pharmaceutical science, she is better qualified than any of us to make these claims. Obviously, Candace has never had a serious depression or she would know that all of the happy, happy thoughts one can muster are sometimes not enough to chase those blues away.
I would be more passionate and articulate about this, but I am about to be shut down hard by Ambien.