Tag Archives: essay

how the brain works

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The brain is a small but formidable universe within us that controls our physical as well as mental being. In a similar manner of the cosmos constantly moving across the great divine space, the brain fires nerve cells called neurons and wires them together and expands their territories from the physical realms of perception to the world of consciousness, which creates a model of our own reality. The brain is the leviathan enterprise that puts together the pieces of our existence under our constant attentive care of its functional longevity by understanding its fabulous varieties that neither age cannot wither away nor custom can stale away.

7ee906966d71ee3d21013e651439da07Our brains keep learning and adopting throughout our lives by the two neurological processes: Neurogenesis by which the brain creates neurons and neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire the connections between the neurons. These processes continue to change and grow our brains into very old age as scientifically corroborated by the finding of these neurological processes in the brains of 70-year-olds with terminal illness. Also, Albert Einstein whose brain was dissected after his death to unravel the secret of the genius was found to have more interconnections between the neurons in his brain. This is very telling evidence because Einstein was considered “slow” during his high school years. What Einstein made genius was his use of imaginations and reasoning skills that required of him the use of the faculties of the mind to the extent possible by firing and wiring millions of neurons. To further illustrate the wonder works of neurogenesis and neurolplasticity, scientists have found it in the avian world. Unlike other birds, canaries produce new melodies every ear to attract a mate. On examining their brains, scientists discovered that canaries generate each neurons each spring.

The theory of the brain is not as complex as it seems. Simply put, thoughts are like “sparks” rising from a campfire or sunlight’s igniting fire when focused through a magnifying glass. A thought repeated with intense focus becomes concentrated mental power, which becomes a dominant, archetypal energy that authorizes our thoughts and actions. These thoughts in the form of neurons form neural networks, which are like paths through a meadow. What we should do is a change in our brain by rewiring the neural pathways that drive our thought and actions. Einstein, whether or not he knew about neurology, constantly expanded the neural networks by engaging himself in finding a Rosetta Stone for Relativity Theory and other questions of the Universe.

The workings of the brain are in conjunction  with the upkeep of physical exercise, social interactions, and new daily challenges because they are portent stimuli to ignite ongoing mental sparks in the brain. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Romans already knew about the key elements of keeping the body and mind fit with the slogan of “Mans sana in corpore sano” (Sound mind dwells in healthy body.” Father of western narrative history Herodotus noted a holistic connection between diet, drink, exercise and lifespan. Socrates pointed out that many people did not think clearly because their body wasn’t in good health. His pupil and founder of Lyceum Aristotle added that physical exercise was essential for general mental and physical capacity. Then there was famous Roman orator, writer, and statesman Cicero proclaimed that soundness of mind depended on applying one’s energies to something of interest. This relates to the empirical finding of keeping the mind fit and alert in spite of horrible existential situations as evidenced by founder of Logotheraphy Viktor E. Frankl, who endured the horrors of daily life at Auschwitz and other subsequent concentration camps by persistently forcing this thought to turn to drafting his books on the tablet of his mind to publish them after the war. It’s both a priori and a posteriori illustration of how channeling one’s interest to intellectual or creative activities keeps his mental state stable and fit in such a dreadful mire of despondency and atrociousness.

BUJDt1DIAAA7rUXIn light of the above, it is not a hyped fashionably cliched mantra that we are what we think and what we do all the time. Popularity of self-help literature bestriding the bestseller charts has the origin of truth in the workings of the brain in the form of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. For my own brain at the moment of writing this essay is firing and wiring neurons, expanding the neural pathways and the yonder territories of my consciousness. The brain is then also plastic because it is being shaped by everything we do and what we opt not to do. It’s really a self-fulfilling prophecy without recourse to deities or even demons. Consequently, the more actively we use our brain to accomplish new daily challenges by fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks however trifle and insignificant that may seem and learning something creative or intellectually stimulating, the healthier our bodily and mental health becomes. Which is elegantly summed up by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Still achieving, still pursuing… Learning to labor and wait.” For this reason, the brain and the mind are concomitantly intertwined to constitute our wholeness so fascinating, so awesome that even a Psalmist praised God because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Surely, the praise is worth the singing, for our brain and its works are indeed a wonder.

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leonardo’s horse that came alive

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“Il Gran Cavallo” in San Siro, Milan, Italy

It was meant to be the largest horse in the world when the future Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482 to conjure it up from the phantasmal world of the artist with his magic chisels. This fantastical statuesque beast, “Il Gran Cavallo” (aka “Cavallo”) was soon to be cast in bronze, standing 24 feet high as the greatest equestrian statue in the world, following the clay model of the equal height made by Da Vinci. Then war broke out in 1499, ravaging Milan and engulfing the clay horse, leaving Da Vinci alone with the original sketches of Cavallo to go back to the drawing room. Such was Da Vinci’s plan to restore the aborted birth of the magnificent bronze horse before it became indefinitely suspended by his death.

The story of the unfinished Leonardo’s Horse piqued my usual counter-popularity curiosity when I came upon an article in a magazine on the train. Since this year sees the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, many an article has featured the masterpieces of Da Vinci and the background stories thereof, but to me none other than this story about Da Vinci’s last masterpiece is intriguing and worth the writing. In fact, this “Horse that Never Was” had spanned a phantasmagoria of imaginations throughout the centuries until a certain American art patron named Charles C. Dent intended to make it his lifelong goal to bring the abstract equestrian statue to reality in 1977 when he first learned about Leonardo’s incomplete project about which the National Geography magazine covered. Upon his death in 1994, American sculptor Nina Akamu continued to carry out where her Renaissance predecessor had left off based upon the surviving sketches as a substratum of artistic guidance and completed a bronze sculpture of the horse in 1999, which was dedicated in San Siro in Milan, Italy. The great statue of Cavallo is a sight to behold with poised magnificence: it commands a sense of legitimate attention in a moment of suggestively continuous galloping that looks wholly authentic and real, rendering a majestic impression of dynamic continuity to marching music as pomp and pompous as Radetzky March.

Da Vinci’s creation of the great horse proves to be his last masterpiece that truly links the past with the present and the future by the medium of art. It weaves the subjectivity of time into a grand tapestry of history and betokens cultural achievements as an intelligent collective enterprise. Akamu wonderfully re-created the great horse by internalizing the artistic sense of the Renaissance period by devoting her years of studying Italian Renaissance works of art in Italy as she pursued the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism in the field. Also, her love of animals, especially horses, contributed to the anatomical study of and aesthetic perspective on Leonardo’s Horse. Akamu’s recreation of Cavallo manifests beauty that penetrates minds of the beholders and lingers there in solipsistic ecstasy so deep and intimate that it feels almost physical. For our faculty, as it interacts with a plight of fantasy, is rather instinctive than reasoning; rather sensual because it delights in pleasure than because it thrives in disciplines. That is why “Il Gran Cavallo” is a gorgeous piece of art.

Lifeline advice from Francis Bacon

Some wise people take shadows for true substances. Like medieval mounted knights in body armors, they skillfully protect themselves from the exploitation of their true substances in everyday interaction with the people they are forced to work with. How the wise accomplish this art of shielding amounts to an art of war in its defensive and offensive strategical tactics as well as to a discipline of cognitive behavioral therapy in its practical approach to noogenic neurosis or existential crisis. English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) knew all about this intricacies of human nature in conflict with existential planes, ergo he advised to the posterity how to keep our individuality from pressure of false conformity under the pretext of socialization.

According to Bacon, simulation and dissimulation are an armor and a shield to guard oneself from being a subject of malicious gossip or cruel bullying, if used wisely. The dichotomy of two principles is simple: simulation as being what he is not. That is, he pretends to be someone he’s not. Dissimulation as being what he is not by way of concealment. However, simulation and dissimulation should not be confused with signs of diffidence or cowardice. On the contrary, it is for the benefit of anyone whose softness is often mistaken for weakness, his hamartia in all things he hopes to achieve. In fact, Bacon posed the advantage of simulation and dissimulation as thus: (1) to quell opposition and to surprise – that is, being a wolf in sheepskin can be a good thing in social interaction as long as you do not hurt anyone with claws and teeth; (2) to reserve a fair retreat to a man’s self – which means by concealing himself to a certain measured degree, he can protect himself in a situation that he feels inappropriate to him. It’s better kept to yourself in a situation that feels and seems a bit averse to you; and (3) to discover the mind of another by letting the other party open himself and turn his freedom of speech to freedom of thought. Simply put, let the other one do the talking until the tower of barbel rings the bell of the talker’s mind to retreat into his chamber of thought. In the end you will remain unsullied by the pompous self-revelation.

As a coin has two sides to it, the principles have the disadvantage that is inescapable. It casts a shadow of fearfulness that discourages people to flock around the quiet one. Also, it transmits a false impression on others who might otherwise corporate with the the reserved one, which then unfortunately begets a deprivation of camaraderieship or closeness that the thoughtful one does not deserve. Hence, it will be the best to concoct doses of (1) prepossessing demeanor; (2) secrecy in habit; and (3) concealment in use – all for the power to feign, so as not to get hurt unnecessarily by those whose intellect, characters, personalities, and habits do not amount to your class and thus are unworthy of even tying your shoelaces. Bacon’s elegant treaty of simulation and dissimulation may seem heretical, treacherous even to the minds of today’s world where stark self-revelation is highly prided and treasured as a modus operandi of self-empowerment paddled by motivational speakers, clinical social workers, therapists, celeb-turned authors, etc… However, of all the chanting mantras of “being yourself”, Bacon’s method of being yourself by means of simulation and dissimulation to guard your most sacred mental sovereignty is still powerfully resonant with its practicality that strikes the hearts of those whose mildness is used against by the rabble.

Charles Dickens wanted to…

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Letters revealing Dickens’ attempt to accuse his wife of being mentally unstable (from Google)

All would have been well if the truth had remained buried under the dusty files of forgotten letters from the past in the bottom drawer of History.  Alas, it happened – a recent revelation of the letters delineating Charles Dickens, a literary great whom I admired, concocting a plot to send his sane wife to a mental institution in order that he and his 18-year old paramour could be forever together.   

How and why these forgotten letters have been brought into light out of the blue are clandestine from my reading of the article about such letters from the recent issue of a history magazine. Besides, the possession of the letters is curiously divided between the Atlantic Ocean because some of the letters are held by Harvard University in the U.S., while the others by the University of York in the U.K. The article does not provide the reader with more detailed information as to whys and wherefores of such divisional custodianship of the letters, not to mention the background of such uncovering of the provocative textual artifact that would certainly do no good on Dickens in any way. Methinks it would be a possibility that a descendant of the estranged wife Catherine Hogarth or even of their eldest child might have staged this rather dramatic publicity of the letters revealing the other side of the great writer out of indignation as comeuppance for his sins of adultery and perjury, which in a twist of whimsical irony befits the ethos of #MeToo Movement.

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Mrs. Catherine Dickens

The content of one such letter written by a neighbor of Catherine Hogarth details the following: (1) Dickens at the age of 45 fell madly in love with 18-year old actress named Ellen Ternan: (2) it was the death-knell of the marriage, pace Dickens’ complaints about his legal wife; (3) his wife confronted him when a bracelet meant for the young actress providentially was delivered to her, after which she separated from him by moving to a house in Kent with their eldest child. The rest of the children were in the care of their aunt, while Dickens continued his relationship with the actress until his death; and (4) after the separation, Dickens tried to seek for divorce from the court by trying to prove that his wife was mentally unstable and that she would be sent to an asylum. However, the attempt to seek such remedy was foiled by the absence of proof of her insanity.

The whole scandalous charade of this great literary figure reminds me of the axiom by Ralph Waldo Emerson that the admiration of great works of geniuses should not become the worship of idols. That is, one must disembarrass the idea of a story from the person of the author, who is only a fallible, whimsical, temperamental human. The works of writers, I believe, are a separate reality based upon their epistemological knowledge magically alloyed in imaginativeness, ideals, and dreams in the peculiar alchemy of literature that deserves of distinguished approbation and recognition. In this regard, my disappointment with Dickens as a person should be kept separate from my admiration of the humane characters he created and the benevolent stories he entertained. Sometimes, it’s better not to know much about whom you like lest his follies and faults should dishearten you against your wishes and imaginations. For these reasons, I am more in sorrow than in anger upon reading this troubling article about Dickens, one of my all-time favorite writers, which leads me to the lamentation of Et tu, Mr. Dickens?

donut queen – review

 

Place: Donut Queen

Address: 2650 Ventura Blvd, Ste 105, Camarillo, CA 93010

The first thing I have noticed since I came to Southern California is the absence of many common food franchises that have become something of a suburban landscape on the East Coast. Maybe I haven’t looked around much yet, but even such paucity of voluntary or involuntary excursion will not yield to a sudden discovery of Franchised Food Emporium. A scarcity of food franchises notwithstanding, these Southern Californians seem to be blessed with a wealth of local food proprietorial to regional characteristics, such as demographics as well as fauna and flora.

95465d3821ae91541b407bc7276ae7f0That said, a place like Donut Queen is a gem for anyone who likes that bona fide classic tastes of homemade donuts with a cool view of the Wide Wild West. The interior of the store is not exactly up to the standards of the Michelin Star Admirers, but it’s cozy and clean enough to make a customer feel welcome. But the most of all, their selection of donuts is quite pleasing to the eye and delicious to the taste buds to make anyone sworn off donuts for dieting break the vow and become a lover of it. Surely, nothing in excess as written on the terrace of Delphi  should become a motto to stop anyone from inordinate indulgence, but the donuts at Donut Queen is one Witchcraft. Plus, the proprietorial ice coffee is a hidden gem of Donut Queen that tempts you to come back for it again and again.

It is said that nominal determinism really matters, and I guess it matters when it comes to a place like this Donut Queen

Author’s Note: I have neither sponsorship nor affiliation with Donut Queen. My writing of this essay is unknown to the proprietress of the store. It comes from my appreciation of what I like about the place. 

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