Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Banyan Trees & Human Brains

Most people define themselves by their clothes, possessions, house, car, friends, career…  all the accumulated stuff that insulates the individual human from harsh reality.  Back in the 60’s someone said that people should be seen for who they really are.  But, strip a human of every surrounding defense, leave him or her standing naked and alone, and you have nothing – only a 20 something in good physical shape is impressive in their stark humanness.

We are social & acquisitive, and it seems that without those physical accouterments we are a lesser species of ape.

Or are we?

The naked ape you see in the mirror every morning may be unimpressive, but the 3 pound human biocomputer hidden behind the sensory array on the top is.  The brain is certainly large and complex, but more importantly it embodies programming that reflects thousands of years of experience.

I was in South Florida for the holidays, and sketched a Banyan tree trunk.  Banyan trees propagate by sending out aerial roots from their branches, which result in a bewildering complex of large and small veins where a single trunk might normally be.

I was also rereading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings (she was a very distant relative of mine), and this quote seemed to fit the visual theme: “We’re our father’s prejudices and our swordmaster’s dead men; our mother’s palate and our nurse’s habit of speech.  We’re the books unwritten by our tutor, and our groom’s convictions and the courage of our first horse.”

Perhaps our possessions, which I disparaged at the beginning, are simply the expression of our internal thinking.  But then again, perhaps we are simply good liars; just another aspect of our contradictory, kaleidoscopic, Gordian knot of a brain.


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