One of the challenges of living at my retirement center is keeping up with the reading recommendations of fellow inmates. My list is long and growing. Nonetheless, when I heard about an article on brain tumor surgery, one that obliges a patient to remain awake while the surgeon saws and removes the upper skull, I had to know more. (“Open Mind,” by Karl Ove Knausgaard, N. Y Times Magazine, 1/3/16, pgs. 32-41, 50-52)
During the operation, the patient stays awake in order to respond to the doctor’s probes. As tumor and brain tissue look alike, assistance is vital and for safety reasons, only part of the growth is removed.
Writer Karl Kanusgaard was present during two of Dr. Marsh’s operations, the surgeon who invented the procedure. As the physician touched tissue that controlled facial muscles, the writer seemed awestruck: “…all the joy, all the grief, all the lights and all the darks that filled the face in the course of a life was it traceable this?” (Ibid, pg. 40.) w.
Soft tissue does shape our entire commerce with the universe. Yet what is this collection of “100 billion brain cells so tiny and so myriad they could only be compared to the stars in the galaxy?” (Ibid, pg. 40) It is matter fueled by chemical substances and sparked by electricity. This simple formulation proves to be greater than the sum of its parts, however, capable of great abstraction, ideas and feelings with which we regulate ourselves and the systems we create to do so: capitalism, communism, religion, art, science, philosophy…
I have written many times that reality rises from illusion. ( Blog 1/15/16). My novel, Trompe l’Oeil, draws upon the same point. Of greater importance, quantum physics assures us we live in an unpredictable space which, somehow, we have the power to affect. (Heisenberg principle: Click ) Given what we know about the fluidity of our world, shouldn’t we wonder at minds which insist upon rigid certainty, minds willing to persecute or murder those who think differently? Can’t they see, these poor, blind zealots, that even in a court of law, the witness who raises a hand and swears “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is suffering from delusion? Don’t all the innocents released from death row give us assurance of that?
If we must create our world and our reality, let us choose wisely about what we leave in and leave out. And of greatest importance, let compassion be a major element.
(Originally posted 2/2/16)