Friday, September 25, 2009

The lonely brain

I've been enjoying The Morville Hours, an exceptional book that is part garden, part social history, part memoir, part unexpected and thought-provoking science.

For example, I didn't know that the only physical contact the brain has with the outside world is through smell. Apparently scent goes directly to the relevant brain bits necessary to process it; every other sense hands off the information through a long series of cells.

Can you imagine? Our brains never 'see' anything, never 'touch'. Even our awareness of sight and touch may be watered down because of the delivery process from these senses, as vivid as they often are. Maybe they would be unbearable to us if we had them without interference.

And how strange to be such a powerful organ, almost completely isolated inside bone, as if in a space suit. Protected, yes - but separate too. Perhaps this is why humans, however generous and kind individuals may be, are so attentive to the self: we are built that way.


Kathleen Taylor said...

Here's what I always wondered: we all see Yellow (those of us with no color impairment). We know that it is yellow, the light waves for yellow are uniform, so we're all seeing the same *thing*. But how do we know that what I see as yellow, doesn't look blue to you? Or some other shade that I can't even imagine.

And no, I haven't been, like, smoking anything... man...

Anonymous said...

You see, now Kathleen has given me an opportunity to raise *my* favourite question: 'is it possible to imagine a colour that cannot, in life, exist?' This question arises with a pathetic inevitability every timeI attempt to choose paint. 6000 shades, and none of them 'it'.