Mind, soul, body, brain; keeping ’em all together

I heard a Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist being interviewed on the radio this morning. His work seems to involve the firing of individual cells and their appreciation by the brain. I supposed this went on with or without a functioning mind (one hooked up to other machines to keep it alive) which led me to see and to think in a clearer way than ever before how it is our minds that inhabit those machines we call our bodies. The brain controls the firing of the cells, it listens to the firing, presumably makes adjustments where necessary involving a zillion biofeedback mechanisms, and keeps the body humming along.

Now, we can define a body as many things: as an assembly or a committee, or indeed as any other kind of group; a form or a shape or even, most crucially, as a cadaver – or as the writer of crime fiction might have it, as a “dead person”. Of which there ain’t no such thing. A body in this sense may well be a late-lamented one, but a “person” can be nothing but a living soul. A body then is the contraption our minds traipse around in until it’s time to part. The brain directs things for as long as it is able but it too is eventually overcome and dies. The mind (spirit, soul, call it what you will) floats on its merry way looking for who knows what to infect, infest, imbue, fire up, illuminate and enlighten.

There is a novel in here somewhere for someone to create. Meanwhile the professor of neuroscience will continue to fiddle around in his laboratory laboriously looking for the next bit of the puzzle to fall into place. It strikes me that the scientist and the novelist respond to their thoughts in similar ways, but it seems the writer gets to where he is headed in so much quicker time.

I hear the philosophers right now sharpening their pencils to respond with arguments about truth and fiction and their comments will be welcome, but you know it is all true, and it is all fiction; all a part of the same story. It depends on whose story is being told.


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