This is a journey into a brain: that organ that sits in our skull, resembling a cooked and shelled sweet chestnut. Much of this particular brain had been neglected, while a few key areas were forced to deal constantly with repetitive tasks and responsibilities to the exclusion of all else.
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, were suddenly and unexpectedly brought into full service.
Unused to being used, these areas lacked regulatory systems. They went immediately into overdrive. Neurones fired constantly and seemingly randomly. Messages from each part of the brain whizzed off to each other part over and over.
Dormant neural pathways were pressed into service, working 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 few areas that had been working hard all these years were looking forward to a much-needed rest. Instead, the newly recommissioned parts bombarded 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, whilst also observing the whole thing with astonishment at the new intensity and heightened sensation of fully being.
Sheer informational overload could be triggered by apparently unassuming activities, like the body that carried the brain attempting to walk along a street. Waves of memories and emotions 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 existence, for being alive, but also wondered if it was strictly sustainable. They felt 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 overseeing parts of the brain watched in awe and horror, as simple thoughts sparked chain reactions. The entire brain activated again and again, reactions and interactions at unfathomable speed.
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, the fight or flight instinct in overdrive, pumping it full of adrenaline, 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 go into meltdown.
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 decide 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 were added to the mix. They triggered more thoughts and memories, 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 belatedly realised action was needed and signalled the arms to remove a selection of vegetables from the fridge and start chopping them.
This became a recurring theme. With so much heightened awareness, with the erupting 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, 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.
[Revised/Edited version: January 2018]