A dear friend, a philosopher of sorts, came to me this morning and said, “Do you know? I’ve discovered the problem of humanity.”
I let out a guffaw.
“I was stuck in traffic today,” he continued, smiling at my half-puzzled half-amused look, “for more than an hour and, while I sat in my car and listened to my music, I had this revelation. It explains everything. I know now. The humankind’s problem is the …brain.”
I laughed again but only in profound approval. Not only it made a lot of sense to me but also it was something that I often think about although I’ve never considered my friend’s vast, planetary scope.
For me it’s long been a personal observation and a source of mild astonishment especially at moments of deep physical fatigue when, rather than stop and allow my poor body to rest, my brain would command it to go forward. Go forward in doing things that I liked, things that I wanted, things that first and above all – even though I didn’t recognise them as such - stimulated the pleasure centres (I don’t know if they’re called like that, but you know what I mean) of my brain. And the reverse, if you want, the sedentariness, the chocolate, the taxing hours spent in front of a screen or of a piece of paper – same purpose, different damaging effects on the body.
So, I sometimes feel like a walking (or sitting) brain. A ruthless, merciless, selfish brain, an undeclared worshipper of god Epicurus. Epicurus was not a god but a Greek philosopher who lived around 300 B.C. and who held that the highest good is pleasure or freedom from pain.
I think we are most of the time endorphin seekers, that we try to do as much as possible the things that we like, those that give us pleasure. It doesn’t matter under which form, physical or intellectual, good or bad, selfish of selfless, legal or illegal, or even if we realise we’re doing them. Some will endanger their lives for the sake of thrills that will release the much-coveted adrenaline. I haven’t done jogging in many years but I remember the so-called “runner’s high” and I miss it. Right now, I (or should I say my brain?) treasure writing and reading above most other things. I get from them a “high” to which I return despite the obstacles and the disappointments, over and over again.
This is my interpretation. My friend, in his droll way, was thinking, among other aspects, of stupidity, to which he has a very low tolerance indeed, or any kind of madness. The solution? No brain.
Ha! Ha! Ha! I wonder…
Funny how powerful this “soft convoluted mass of nervous tissue within the skull of vertebrates that is the controlling and coordinating centre of the nervous system and the seat of thought, memory and emotion” (according to the Collins Concise English Dictionary) is. Funny, scary, and absolutely fascinating.