Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On the brain/mind dilemma


In the early days of my teaching life, I read an essay with my class, "The Mind's Eye" by Oliver Sacks. In it, he asked, "does the brain control the mind, or does the mind control the brain?" It was a wonderful question to chew on and dissect, and too, in full disclosure, it was the first time I had thought of the brain and mind as separate and distinct. My class and I didn't come to a certain thesis about it, in spite of Sacks' numerous examples of people he'd met who were clinically blind, yet continued to see vivid images. I'm being vague, because I don't quite recall the fine tunings of the essay. What I do recall is asking people for a long time after what they thought, tossing out the question as though it were a party ice breaker. I may have been flippant, but I wanted a solid truth.

I'm thinking about this now, because I'm certain it is my mind that is desperate for sleep at 1:17 a.m., but my brain is flooded with way too much thought. There is no question. Brain in the driver's seat. Mind a cranky baby strapped in for the ride.

In addition to brain on "acid" is the artifice of light rain on my rooftop, made possible by a sleep tape, which my brain (and mind!) aren't fooled by for a second. For one, I have a ceiling, not a rooftop, and two, there is no rain pinging my windows. Outside, the night is quiet, dry, with an occasional whoosh of traffic.

I'm thinking too much, too intensely about other people's plights, shared with me tonight in emails and phone calls. A friend stuck in a job he hates. I wanted to tell him to quit, but didn't. Another friend having a parent/child issue that makes me squirm. Loosen the reigns, a voice inside screamed. And then I caved and said it.

I suffer when I don't say what I'm thinking...not in a rude, bossy way, just, let's say, gentle honesty (I would guess my mind cares much more about this.) My brain tells me I'm thinking about other people because my own life needs attention (circa therapy 101). I'm scared. I've avoided the newspapers since the start of the year. My mind can't take it in. My brain is parked at the curb, empty.

I miss the rhythm of work. Not the stress, but the space it took up in my brain/mind.  I've returned to painting and have focussed for the past two (3?) days on birds. The photo to the left is a hummingbird by fellow student and painter, Lindsay Wright. She loaned it to me, so that I could practice and get back to finding my own technique. On the right are my renditions.

For the record, my brain did the work. My mind had a good time.and didn't judge. Then I went off the program and painted this on slippery, yupo paper. My friend tells me it is creatures arising from a gelatin gooey substance. Interpretations are so much more interesting than the real thing, in this case, flowers.