It seems that I am not just sighing into the breeze. A recent post on not just your Mum’s favourite website but mine as well – the unique and merry site Tehben.com – references some of my philosophical thoughts.
Go, read the post in the link above, as well as everything that I have ever written, and then contemplate this.
Last year my uncle lost his mother. Not a surprise – she had been fading for years – but still these things hit hard. A significant person in one’s life no longer available in the physical world.
He went interstate to attend the funeral and discovered that even though this was the town and the streets and the buildings of his childhood, he got lost. It had been thirty years or more since he lived there, and somehow the places that he could find his way around blindfolded had turned into unknown territory.
He was in a state of shock. Mother gone, and now this. He couldn’t talk, he reported; the power of speech had left him. Obviously it came back for him to tell the tale, but still, one doesn’t normally find basic communication skills dropping offline without a bottle of rum being involved.
So how does one get lost in familiar territory? Two possibilities. Perhaps the memories were still around, but the links to them had vanished.
Or the memories had gone entirely.
I’m not saying one way or the other, but my guess is that the bits of everyday thinking that deal with navigation had no need to find their way around a town not visited for decades, but a real need to deal with the current environment, and had simply re-used the old neurons.
Not that neuroplasticity is a new phenomenon. The brain rewires itself to cope with changing environments. Lose your sight and your hearing develops. Some blind people develop an ability to perceive their surroundings by interpreting echoed sounds, often mouth-clicking. The area of the brain used for interpreting eyesight is used, just the inputs are different.
Body, brain, memory, skills; these all change over the course of a life. What remains constant for me is consciousness. Every time I wake up, I know I am alive.
I suggest that this experience is true for everyone, regardless of body or brain shape.
Image credit: Britni Pepper