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.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Left Brain, Right Brain?

Which are you? Sinister or dexter? Lucky me, I'm both. The ambidexterity of my brain is both blessing and bane. Those two hemispheres constantly whir, night and day, buzzing through words and numbers, scales and poems, equations and paintings.

Anyone else face this dilemma? Where both sides compete for attention, the logical side waving, furious - get that analytic modeling finished, or else! - at the artistic side bending itself silly over a gluttony of words? A poem perchance, or a decent short or essay. Or, by gum, The GAN - Great American Novel. Which is what I'm working on now.

I'm a scientist, and a writer. In between, I do the mom thing and the wife thing and the partner-of-a-minister thing. It's a fun imbalance, a demanding one, but I wouldn't squander a minute of it, not even for a long weekend in a hammock with a good book and a pitcher of Mai Tais. Well, maybe if the vacation was all expenses paid, I might find time to swing down to Aruba.

Here I'll post about my writing life, with smidgeons of musings on science and other marvels thrown in. On how I get it all done. Or not. Usually not. Perhaps I'll be brave and share a snippet or two of poetry, or an excerpt from my novel BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, which is closing in to the finish line. Meanwhile, I invite you to share your adventures in juggling science and writing and parenting and partnering and business and everything else that spins your world. Share your secrets on how YOU get it all done with a modicum of sanity and, perhaps, a tad of humor.

Peace, Linda