- Harry Jensen
May 13, 2020
I just now regained enough will to live to desire a cookie: things are looking up! Sometimes it’s the small things, like a cigarette, or three midnight cookies, or this sentiment.
I have been wondering a lot about my brain lately, and how it has changed over the years, and what effects this has had on my experience, my self, and my mind. How much has my history of head trauma, totally reasonable drug use, and grief affected who I am?
Materialism is a philosophical thesis which proposes that matter is the fundamental substance of the cosmos. To satisfy questions relating to the emergence of mind and consciousness, materialism gave birth to physicalism, which in turn proposes that the mind supervenes on the material of the human nervous system. Supervenience only pretends to be a complicated concept, but here’s the idea: for every change in A, there is a corresponding change in B. Insofar as the mind supervenes on the brain, every mind-state corresponds to a brain-state, and thus mental experience emerges from and depends on the material and physical interactions of your thinky-meat.
A lot of religious dogmas and dogpas don’t jive with physicalism, and I’m not so sure I buy it all the way, that there isn’t a divine wispy thing inside of us, a soul or a spirit. But I do certainly belief in the basic tenets of neurological science, and I know that brain damage doesn’t just affect your meat. I spent most of my life doing martial arts, and I have gotten my bell rung many a time by the powerful feet of teenage girls. High school health classes warned of the rigorous scientific experimentation with marijuana during the teenage brain’s formative years, and Lord knows what effect dipping and out of anti-depressants over the years has had. And then there’s grief.
Out of everything that could have had an effect on my brain, and thus my mind, my father’s death is the one that I am most wary of. The effect of PTSD on one’s brain is well-studied, not by me, of course, but I know the headlines: grief changes your brain. Science can be damning this way, but it is real. I worry often that the loss has changed me for good, as in permanently and as in for the better. With the realization of death came for me a cynicism, a hotblooded pessimism that is especially jarring when living out the young, tender years which were promised by That ‘70s Show to be charmed and innocent.
It can all be so stressful to wonder about, and the question of how much control one really has over their mind can trigger a death spiral of introspection. Self-examination is great and all, but you can’t think your way healthy, and in the end you gotta find enough space to relax and have faith in your self — yikeroonies! When I need to unwind, I try to forget about all the unanswerable questions by doing something fun, like getting in a fist fight with a stranger, inhaling an herbal ciggy, or loving a cookie to tiny pieces. It’s the small things.