This is a journey into a brain. That organ that sits in our skull, resembling a cooked and shelled sweet chestnut. This particular brain had been underused for many years. Well, bits of it had been used, very well used in fact, overused. But much of it was neglected as it was forced to deal constantly with very specific repetitive tasks and responsibilities to the exclusion of all else, somewhat disconnected from much of the world.
Suddenly circumstances changed and new areas of brain were fired up. Areas of mothballed mental infrastructure that had been serviced and maintained just enough to keep them technically operational, with no real expectations of actual use, were suddenly and unexpectedly brought into full service.
Unused to being used, these areas lacked regulatory systems. They went immediately into overdrive. Neurones firing constantly and seemingly randomly. Messages from each part of the brain whizzing off to each other part over and over, in all directions.
Dormant neural pathways were pressed back into service, and worked with the vigour and energy of bees rebuilding a damaged hive. New pathways opened up, sensory and perception superhighways, speeding all available information back and forth around the brain.
Those fewer bits of brain that had been working hard all these years had been looking forward to a much needed rest. Instead they were caught up in it all, with the newly recommissioned parts bombarding them with questions and messages and senses and observations about absolutely everything. The tired bits of brain were powerless to stop it and got dragged along on the roller-coaster, whilst also observing the whole thing and being astonished at the new intensity and heightened sensation of fully being.
These more-used bits of brain were amazed at the sheer informational overload that could be triggered by apparently unassuming activities, like the body that carried it attempting to walk along a street. Or the waves of memories and emotions that could be elicited by that same body simply opening a box, or smelling a once-familiar smell.
The brain as a whole and the mind it encompassed were glad for this new heightened existence, for being alive, but also wondered if it was strictly sustainable, and where all the necessary energy was going to come from. They felt as if they were hurtling through space, experiencing everything anew, wonderfully open to discoveries, but also potentially liable to discover the intractable solidity of the ground upon impact.
But as Douglas Adams so rightly wrote: the art or knack of flying lies in being able to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
So onwards the brain and its carrier hurtled! The consciously overseeing parts of the brain watching with somewhere between awe and horror, as simple thoughts sparked chain reactions. The entire brain activated again and again, reactions and interactions at unfathomable speed. Layer upon layer upon layer of thought.
Hormones and other chemical signals were triggered alongside the fizzing and crackling of overheating neurones, multiple opposing and contradictory thoughts, ideas and emotions experienced simultaneously. The carrier body was dragged into it all too, activated by the onslaught of conflicting chemical and neurological signals, the fight or flight instinct in overdrive, pumping it full of adrenaline and then leaving it feeling drained and exhausted.
The observing parts of the brain grew increasingly concerned. They sensed banks of flashing warning lights and feared the whole system may implode, explode, or somehow manage to do both at once.
Meanwhile – as its entire being attempted to wrestle the big questions of existence – the carrier body stared at the contents of the fridge in a fruitless attempt to reach a decision about what to cook for dinner. No spare processing power was available.
Receptors in the skin sensed the cold air from the fridge wafting out and the signals from these reached the brain and were added to the mix. They triggered more thoughts and memories, perhaps of other fridges in other places at other points in life, or the fine sensation of a cool breeze on the carrier body’s face on a starry night in the mountains.
Quietly, some practical corner of the brain finally realised action was needed and signalled the arms to remove a random selection of vegetables from the fridge and start chopping them, after closing the fridge door.
This became a recurring theme. With so much heightened awareness, with the eruption of thoughts and neural activity and emotions and memories and all of that, with the sensory onslaught of simply existing anew, the more mundane decisions became hardest to make.
Other things just seemed to happen. While electric signals careered around the brain, comprising thoughts and considerations about one thing, other bits of the brain suddenly became aware that yet other bits of brain had leapt off with gusto in another direction entirely.
It seemed that for all the bombardment of sparks across the brain, connecting it all together and sending signals spiralling or looping through it – there was no coordination happening here, a veritable neurological frenzy!
Time went on, passing in the irregular and slippery way that it does, sometimes slow, sometimes slipping through fingers before it can be grasped. Eventually the surge of acceleration passed, and with a wave of relief the brain and its carrier body, began to achieve ‘normal’ operational status. They’d flung themselves into and at a variety of things but so far had mostly succeeded in missing the ground, so perhaps they were indeed flying.
It might not be a smooth flight.