Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Landscape of the Mind

“O the mind, the mind has mountains; cliffs of fall frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.” (Gerald Manley Hopkins)

Our brain. Our mind. The same, but not. Grey matter comprises the phsyiologic mind, and lobes and valleys and fissures and synaptic gaps and minerals like potassium and sodium that regulate the passage of chemicals through the highways of our brain. And the mind? It is the interface between the physiologic and the world, where reason and feeling, sensation, fear, love, and emotion are articulated. And creativity. The mind is the seat of our humanity.

Many things can change the brain: blunt head trauma reduces us to quivering involuntary masses of flesh, while genetic blips delays our growth. Seizures, mania, and methamphetamine use changes the prefrontal cortex structure and the way neurotransmitters flow. Meditation, fasting, deep breathing also change brain structure. So does prayer. Advances in neuroscience, especially in brain imaging, have proven these things.

Neuroscience also has documented that when the brain changes, our mind changes. How can it not? We all know from imbibing a glass or two of wine that our perception of the world differs than from before: more warped, mellower, relaxed, friendlier. Five drinks later, different yet: sloppier, sharper edges, meaner.

The terrain of the mind swells with hills and valleys, plains and seas, perilous with cliffs and mountains. Altered states are one way to measure this landscape. Whether we deliberately seek psychic distortions or have them foisted upon us by faulty genes or some other accident of nature or nurture, abnormal brain chemistry alters the way we perceive – and live – in the tangible world.


  1. very interesting post. headed over here from WD post-your blog looks great!

  2. Hmmm, after reading this I'll never "think" the same as I used to. Beautifully written.