Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight was recommended to me by both my mom (for better insight into my dad’s stroke) and by Andy (who thought it rather interesting) and by Mark at The Committed Parent. But we don’t listen, do we… not until some strange dark night of the soul sends us scrambling, under a fully agitated moon, fingers restlessly crossing bookbindings and dust like a spider, searching for wolfsbane, or phosphorus, or just the right page in some arcane alchemical text… searching for the balm, for just the ticket to soothe the savage heart.
In a shaft of late-night light I read, and found comfort, in how Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke, and in her inability to speak, with her left brain taken effectively offline, she found herself liquid, all barriers and boundaries washed away, at one with the everything. She was safe, safe from the nefarious peanut-sized part of her brain that had formerly dictated its big-brother paranoid fear-script, the tiny dictator had seized-up and shut up.
While she had to work to regain the functions of her left brain, and thanks to neuroplasticity that old dog brain can indeed learn new tricks (and new parts can relearn old tricks), Dr. Taylor did not entirely want her old brain back—she didn’t want the controlling, grumpy, negativistic… unhappy brain back.
We are lucky that a person who really knew her brain, had a stroke and subsequently learned her mind—and perhaps we too are free to calm our linguistic, narrative-making, generally nervous and negativistic brains in favor of a more yogic, Zen, illuminated, loving, connected, compassionate brain, heart and mind.
To do this, however, at some point we must tap the breaks on words (“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”) and veer off into the realm of image and emotion, plunge into the deep dark wood of primordial non-sense and epic lichen. Poetry may be a bridge where words shape-shift into a ferry, a dark gondola crossing the painted cave-wall, the bridal/funeral veil that might take us into the realm of halcyon freedom and beauty, sail us beyond the grip of modern language and its alienated inevitabilities…
Someone recommended a show currently at the LA County Museum of Art, words and drawings of Japanese Zen Masters of the eighteenth century; one thing I liked about the show is how these Zen Masters really appreciated how hard it is to become enlightened if you don’t have nine years to sit and stare at a wall, as one of them did in order to somehow break on through to the other side. Hence they offered something akin to graphic novels for us, the layperson, to perhaps inspire, rewire, retire the obsessive side of things that goes endlessly around in circles like an ant on a millstone.
Another image shows a teacher suddenly tweaking the nose of his student, to surprise him into awakening, to get him to hear the sound of one hand clapping? I liked that—it made me think of The Three Stooges.
So, away with words for now but for one last one: