Monday, November 29, 2010


Continuing my ongoing quest to ascertain that I haven't lost my mind, I made my way to the Museum of Natural History today, which is featuring a new exhibition, THE BRAIN. The Museum was the favorite of my childhood, probably the only one as I can't remember my mother's taking me to any, and this was a regular excursion from PS 9, and we got to eat in the cafeteria, a real treat. The windows I passed by with stuffed wolves and rhinos and Whooping Cranes(endangered) were all of them madeleines, throwing me back to that more than innocent time, when I would experience all I knew of perfect peace in the planetarium, as it was before I fell in love with classmates(the lizard brain, which deals only with feeding, mating, and defense) and I could lose myself in the stars projected on the ceiling.
Today's experience was close to monumental, as trying to extricate myself from some of the emotional turmoil of the past few weeks, I went to the cafe and bought a tea waiting my admission time(4:30) I saw how many people there were who actually loved their children, and, more important, remembered my first seated exchange with my Jewru Jack at Estes Park, Colorado, where he said to me "Experience your tea." So I did, and the half-hour wait went rather quickly, till I could join the line on the 3rd floor, which was let in in increments, which I couldn't understand until I got in myself, as it is all experiential, and you need time for every single point the exhibition and probably the brain itself are making, with wonderfully dazzling ribbons of light at the beginning that demonstrate everything that's going on in our heads, with the possible exception of Sarah Palin's.
The pre-frontal cortex is what we use to plan, predict and use language, which has always been my favorite thing(I didn't even look at the part of the brain that does math, as I know it does not function in me, if it is there at all. The Broca area is for putting words together, and then there is the part(I didn't note where it is exactly,) that produces social emotions, shame, guilt and pride, and then there's the cortex, which controls emotions and makes complex decisions, all of these rendered larger than life, dazzling to the eye which is also explained in another section, along with how we put pictures together, so we can recognize Hillary Clinton even if we don't see her clearly. The smile, which exists only in humans is a laugh that didn't quite happent, a fact that resonated deeply because my girlfriend Taffy sent me a quote yesterday from Auden talking about people he liked, but that the one universal characteristic of those he loved was they made him laugh, which made me think even more highly of Auden. And miss Don, of course, since nobody ever made me laugh as much as he did, with the exception of Hal Dresner who also went to PS 9 but wasn't that funny yet.
There are buttons you can push at various stations to see how reactions affect what portion of the brain, and a section on anti-depressants artificially upping your serotonin, the reason I never wanted to take them no matter how sad I felt because I thought it might affect other things that are important to me besides my dopamine and endorphins, like writing. A really fantastic experience which ended much too soon because I was so absorbed in studying absolutely everything.
So when the guard said "The museum is closing," I said "My brain cannot process that information," and those who were still there laughed, which is a smile fulfilled.
Not really that mellow, as I hadn't had the chance to see everything, I experienced a light jolt of anger, coming from a section of the brain I hadn't visited yet, but certainly have. But instead of acting from one of the urges that drive us, I went to the portion that invents new strategies to reach goals, and going to the guard to say I hadn't seen as much as I wanted, and wished to come back. She sent me past the overhead canoe, told me to turn left at the giant mosquito, and keep on past the Christmas tree. The only security guard left on duty who is head of his union(we had a moment to exchange pleasantries) sent for someone from services, and she said all she could do to help my situation was offer me a voucher to return another day. Well, that's all I really wanted, even in my lizard brain. I have a year to use it. Let me know if you want to come along. It's a great exhibition.