Lately I’ve been reading about consciousness, mind/brain topics, memory, and deception. There are new insights, new discoveries about the workings of the brain, new drugs that alter the brain, new explanations why our brains can be confused and deceived so easily, and explanations why we believe with good reason, and why we too often succumb to our emotions. It’s all fascinating stuff that helps me understand myself and the rest of the sane and insane world.
I searched through my files and recovered a few of my old poems about the brain and how we think. I hope you will read them. Let me know what you think.
Dementia – Written with memories of my father and my father-in-law, who both suffered with dementia.
The conscious mind can fade, as does a withering rose.
So slowly does it happen, no danger it seems to pose.
Like wearing darkened glasses on a sunny day,
we miss the full intensity of every solar ray.
Some think this is a blessing that guards us from the bright,
and gives relief from the pain of losing our last sight.
But as the rose does fade so peacefully each hour,
and as the winter light no longer stirs the flower,
the beauty of the conscious mind slips away in darkness,
and leaves behind a barren land characterized by starkness.
Does the shaded eye ever think about lost color?
Does the shadowed brain think the world is duller?
Does the fading rose think about its past?
And does it ever wonder how much longer it might last?
Is the conscious mind, a sun darkened by a storm,
always there and waiting for its chance again to warm?
Or is it just another day that cannot be recovered;
gone forever with all the beauty it discovered?
We will miss the essence of the rose and the days long past,
but memories of its beauty, in our minds, will last.
As the twilight of dad’s life so gradually turns to night,
we think about his sunny days that used to be so bright.
As the petals of his mind, with age, do fall upon the ground,
music of his life remains forever, our most cherished sound.
Memories – A neurological approach to memory.
I used to think that memories were files tucked away
into little corners of my mind, where they would always stay,
sometimes to be forgotten and never found again,
sometimes to be recovered, and used now and then.
Then one day I realized that no files exist at all,
but they are created new, whenever we recall.
They really can’t be found in a cabinet or hard drive;
in any form or place they just do not survive.
Memories are merely pathways traveled by our thoughts.
They lead from here to there, but not always where they ought.
We cannot preserve our memories or store them for all time,
even if they’re ugly or beautifully sublime.
Memories are road maps that change as we drive.
We seldom take that same road, no matter how we strive.
Our memory map is often lost and created new each day.
It always is a little different, much to our dismay.
Memories are the dreams we have, when we are awake.
To believe them as gospel truth would be a grave mistake.
So, if we trust a memory dream that never is the same,
we must prepare to make mistakes, and then to take the blame.
Can’t Remember – As I age, my memory fades.
Names are something I can’t remember.
That’s why I am a name pretender.
“How’re you doing my old friend,
It’s so good to see you.” again and again.
Not knowing a name is bad enough
but using the wrong one deserves a rebuff.
How stupid I feel when greeting a fellow
when I don’t know his name, I just say “hello”
Some think me stupid, some think me rude,
some think me careless, some think me crude.
I’m totally innocent of all of these charges,
I can’t even find my car in parking garages.
I can’t remember where I laid down my glasses
or the names of all those pretty young lasses.
I can’t remember how to get to your home
or where I left my last pocket comb.
So when you see me you must not expect
your face with your name I will connect.
And I won’t be upset or give you the blame
if you don’t greet me… with my correct name.
My Father is Not Home – For my dad who died with Altzheimer’s disease
My father is not home.
Yes, once he did dwell here.
Not too long ago, those white locks and vacant eyes belonged to him.
That time-ravaged body was once his. It is no longer.
A stranger greets me now. Poor man, he is nothing like my dad; that gentle,
loving man who gave me the gift of life and the knowledge of how to live it.
Where did he go? Why did he leave me? Does he have a new address?
No, I think not. He has died and sadly, has no grave.
He did not say good-by to me, or I to him.
He left when I was away. He stepped out into the night, wandered off alone and was lost.
He was lost and knew not he was lost. His innocence was fearlessness in the face of death. He could not sense the growing twilight and coming night.
I looked for him. I called his name in the darkness and several times I heard a faint reply… or was it just my imagination?
Was that a light in the old house, or the moon reflecting on the broken windows?
I will never know.
Dad, Dear Dad, it’s me, your son who loved you and never told you so.
No answer. I will call his name tomorrow… or perhaps I will not bother.
What is the use? He is gone and it hurts my hands to pound on the old door
of the vacant house. It is unyielding and cruel. It is forever locked to me.
No one lives in the old house now. My father is not home.
Between The Worlds
Between the worlds of dreams and wakefulness there lies fertile realm,
a time in which the mind can soar and hardships overwhelm.
The greatest triumphs and smallest pleasures, from this time, are born.
Use it wisely at every chance, and let it not adjourn.
For in it lies a world of hope, potentialities unlimited,
of problems solved and visions uninhibited.
So before you fall asleep at night or just before you wake,
explore this world of possibilities and see what you create.
Brain to Tongue
From brain to tongue there is a road that runs so very fast.
Its origin is an ancient place from our long lost past.
Once useful, this survival road helped us every day,
to deal with life’s emergencies, to evolve in our own way.
Fast reaction to each event our ancestors came upon,
provided safety for those souls, from that time long gone.
But now we should close that road because speed can do real harm,
and end our trip through life, much to our alarm.
Better take the scenic route, and stop to get a map.
Plan where you would go, arrive without mishap.
Choose your words, and actions too, look before you leap,
if good sense and health you really want to keep.
Halfway Down His Nose – Some of us try to understand ourselves and the world we live in through science and reason; some of us accept what we are told without question.
The lenses that help him focus sit halfway down his nose.
With them he looks for the logic of everything he knows.
His world is one of reason but only when he peers
through lenses half way down his nose at things he holds most dear.
But when he looks with unaided eye at things that are not there,
he imagines that the blur he sees is something worth his stare.
Even though he has lenses that sit halfway down his nose,
he doesn’t always use them, no problem it seems to pose.
We understand just why he never sees the truth;
he still clings to the fairy tales of his trusting youth.
He seems quite content to live two separate lives.
One, based on science and reason, makes him so very wise.
The other, born of ignorance, he accepts without a doubt
even though he doesn’t know what it’s all about.
If only he would use the lenses that sit halfway down his nose,
he would have twice the friends and half as many foes.
The trouble is that this man believes everything he’s told
just because it’s taken from a book that’s very old.
Things are seldom what they seem to be and he won’t see more clearly
until he uses the corrective lenses humans have paid for dearly.
Through them he could see that there are more truths than one
and he might desist in fighting battles that should not be won.
Certainty, based upon faith alone, has caused the world much harm,
and yet those who cannot see past their noses never get alarmed.
They never see the danger, the suffering and the strife.
They never use the lenses that would clear their view of life.
They rather just continue to stumble into everyone
instead of making up for the bad things they have done.
As long as they have blind faith they cannot change their course
and will continue to make decisions that go from bad to worse.
The lenses that help me focus sit half way down my nose.
I use them every day to see, for me that’s just how it goes.
Human nature is the reason why this world is in such a mess
and most of us don’t know it and really could care less.
All the wars and all the hate are born of this one thing,
and yet we still don’t realize why we try to cling
to reasons that are superficial and so confuse our minds;
reasons that obscure the truth, so it we’ll never find.
The so-called wisdom of our leaders has threatened our very lives
because it doesn’t recognize the importance of our drives.
Drives that from our distant past kept us from extinction.
Drives that kill us every day without the least distinction.
What was so good for us a million years ago
is the very thing today that strikes the lethal blow.
Instinct is the primal cause that gets us into trouble.
It destroys our good reason and leaves behind the rubble.
Human nature is the reason why we try to love our brothers,
but human nature is exactly why we try to kill the others.
Human nature is to blame for all our destructive drives.
Human nature cannot be trusted to guide our hectic lives.
Man with no Ears
I met a man today who didn’t have his ears.
At least he didn’t use them to listen it appears.
Between the ears he didn’t have, he also had no eyes.
At least he didn’t use them. I wasn’t that surprised.
Inside his head he had no brain that I could detect.
At least he didn’t use it. That’s what I suspect.
His mouth, on the other hand, seemed to work quite well.
He used it all too often, as everyone could tell.
To hear, or see, anything that threatened his beliefs
was intolerable to him and caused him too much grief.
This man I met today had no ears, no eyes, no brain,
but to be without them he seemed happy to remain
On the Way to Here
I lost all I had on the way to here,
everything remembered, everything held dear.
I lost it while I wandered with a growing fear
that I would not achieve the goals that I revere.
The days no longer last a year, as they did in youth.
The wisdom of past years no longer speaks of truth.
The last grains of hourglass sand drop in finality
without regard to faith or with partiality.
Memories of our lives are like Spring flowers,
beautiful to see but with no staying power.
I lost all I have on the way to here,
but the journey was well worth every fallen tear.
I think that I shall never see a vision of a deity
without electro-magnetic probes into both my temporal lobes.
Lobes that house gods all day and in dreams, at night they may.
Lobes that play a major role in the creation of the soul.
Lobes that, when seizures grip, launch us on religious trips.
Lobes that allow us to see, a god-like facsimile.
Visions are made by lobes that lie within our brains we can’t deny.
But thoughts of gods are denied to some if their lobes are ossified.
Such claims are made by fools like me, but if next to God you have to be,
you can use your temporal lobes, and if need be, magnetic probes.
The curtain hung unnoticed since intellect was born,
thick with dust from ages past, faded and forlorn.
It covered the only window of a house that had no doors
and sifted the meager light that managed to the floor.
It trembled in the turbulent storm of ideas spawned of science
but continued to hide the truth in opaque defiance.
What atrocities of the past paced the moldy floor?
What poor souls inside searched for absent doors?
Who hung the curtain in the ancient past?
How long was it there, how long would it last?
Would some poor soul, driven by despair,
finally gather the courage and boldly take the dare,
perhaps to peer out cautiously at the world of reason?
Perhaps to see, at last, a new and glorious season.
If only they could find their way through the dark morass,
truth itself is the door through which they all may pass.
Will there be a time when doors appear and curtains will be slashed,
when prejudice and superstition will be resolutely trashed?
The story of the house with one window and no doors
should become a fable of the past and reality no more.
But still, we empathize with those who dwell within,
and have not escaped the fundamental spin.
We hope they will be courageous and reject dogmatic din
and make the world a better place for humans and their kin.
To understand just who we are we must look behind
the curtain of our culture and accept what there we find.
The secrets of survival may shock our very senses,
so we protect ourselves by constructing tall fences.
Fences keep from us the when, the where, the how
we came to be from what we were to who we are right now.
All the truths that nature brought are not to be maintained
for what was truth so long ago, now we must constrain.
Old truths now shock our senses and destroy the well-worn trail
that mankind has followed through the wind, the sleet and hail.
The trail that wanders here and there can abruptly end,
unless we understand the past and the message that it sends.
The message is a simple one, about our dangerous feelings
born a million years ago but alive in all our dealings.
We must not trust that inner voice unless we know its source.
We must not let it smother reason and run its deadly course.
We must, instead, use it wisely, and with good intent.
Use it to enhance our lives and make us more content.
The power we have within our genes is awesome to behold
so if you screw up your life, don’t claim you’ve not been told.
When You Know When
When does day turn into night? When does wrong turn into right?
When does love turn into hate? When does early turn into late?
When does the tide change its course? When does winter lose its force?
We don’t know exactly when little boys turn into men.
We fool ourselves if this we think that there is some point so distinct
that makes you black and makes me white, that makes me dumb and makes you bright.
So when we think that we know when, we may well be wrong now and then.
A Little Home for God
A little home for God exists inside of you and me.
It’s deep within our brains, in a place we cannot see.
Somewhere along neural tracts and in clumps of cells
The Lord, our God, resides comfortably and well.
He shares His home with other gods of other times and creeds
who, just like Him, all claim to fill important needs.
They are there when we call as if by special magic,
but when we let them help us, it often turns out tragic.
Sometimes they take control of us just for their own ends
like a lethal virus when its life upon us depends.
Did nature put these cells inside of us for reason,
to help us through hard times and the deadly season?
For some of us it must have helped in the past as in the present,
that’s why now we need the comfort of the cross, the star, the crescent.
This godly home, some do think, is in our temporal lobe
or maybe our limbic system is the address of its abode.
It really makes no difference to some of us you see,
because, in our brains and intellect, there is no vacancy.
Ever wonder what ancient secrets lie within yourself,
old secrets from the past, born of nature’s wealth?
Retired from use, but saved for us in a vaulted store,
they number at least a thousand, but could be many more.
Do we really want to know the secrets in history’s trunk?
They could be a treasure trove, or just a pile of junk.
Should we worry that therein lies a poison pill or two
that just might find their way into our twilight brew?
So now, in anticipation of that sad event,
what can or should we do in order to prevent
the looming ills and sickness of past genetic sores,
that have cursed and blessed mankind, now and evermore?