Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Total access: Using the other 90% of our brains

For years, scientists such as Albert Einstein and William James have been telling us that we human beings only use 10% of our brain capacity. Wouldn't it be marvelous if we could use the other 90%? Can you imagine all the great ideas that we might be able to come up with?

Great literature -- we'd all become Shakespeares!

Great art -- I wanna be Michelangelo!

Great science -- Einsteins on every corner, they'd run out of Nobel Prizes!

Great music -- your child would truly be baby Mozart.

Great humanitarians -- would you rather be Buddha or Jesus?

Or perhaps the opposite might happen and we'd end up with more Hitlers, Stalins, Atilla the Huns and Dick Cheneys. Oh crap.

But how do you go about accessing the other 90% of your brain? Meditation? Dreaming? Hitting the books? LSD? Peyote?

At one point in time way back in the 1960s, I ate some mescaline down at Big Sur -- and it was immediately revealed to me that NATURE is the most important thing in the world. According to Mescalito, living within the context of trees and grass and mountain vistas and fresh air offers the most meaning to the human brain that there is. As the day wore on, however, both Mescalito and I began to think that perhaps pancakes were the most important thing.

But taking mescaline didn't make me a genius either. Don't try it at home.

"Go to college! That will make you smarter!" my mother always told me -- back during a time when women were just supposed to stay home and play-act at being June Cleaver. So I went off to college. Got a masters degree too. But did that make me a genius? I wish. And it didn't make any of those Yale and Harvard graduates who run the Federal Reserve into geniuses either. It just made them better crooks and liars and helped them to figure out new and better ways to keep their butts out of jail.

In these crucial times, it is so very important for the human race to use more of its brain capacity and to evolve. We have been basically thinking like cavemen for all too long. For instance, take the situation in Libya. When confronted with a desire on the part of his people to obtain more democratic institutions, Muammar
Gaddafi responded exactly like the most primitive caveman might have. He started killing people, his people.

And what has been America's answer to problems in Afghanistan, Tripoli. Washington, Wall Street and Wisconsin? Pissing contests that involve violence and threats. That's not evolution or wisdom. That's Neanderthal.

But perhaps the next generation will do better than our generation has done. To paraphrase one of my favorite bumper stickers which now reads, "Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!" -- maybe if we want and nurture and protect and love the next generation instead of just stealing its future, perhaps we can also get more geniuses as well as just more whirled peas.

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who was given a rather strange research opportunity: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness -- all shut down one by one. Then she worked really hard to get all of her brain functions back. Maybe we can learn something from what happened to her and build on her experiences as well.

I've also heard that art, music and other forms of creativity can also expand our brains -- and make us better at math too. According to an article in the Harvard Educational Review by Eric Jensen, “Research from the studies discussed in [Arts With the Brain in Mind] and the experience of countless classroom educators support the view that visual arts have strong positive cognitive, emotional, social, collaborative, and neurological effects.”

And, given all this well-researched information, what are the powers-that-be in America doing with it right now? They're making major cuts to funding for our art museums, school music programs and literature grants in order to have more Moolah to invest in their bloody, useless, uncivilized and paleolithic wars. Good thinking? Hardly.

Eating healthy stuff is supposed to be good for your brain too. Nothing processed. No sugar. No artificial sweeteners. Breast-feed your kids. That kind of stuff.

And while looking for ways to get a spacecraft to the moon,
one NASA scientist used to deliberately work himself to exhaustion, fall asleep, dream about the answers to his problems, wake up suddenly, and have his wife hurriedly write down what he had learned from his dream before the solutions were forgotten.

But I don't have a wife -- so no deep thinking or going to the moon for me. I'm screwed.

PS: Speaking of music, I just starred -- well, sort of -- in a new punk-rock music video!