Neuroscience is determined to prove human brains analogous to computers, and soon no educated Bio 101 student will have any reason to believe in the existence of a “soul” unless the poor kid’s religious. (Why do we love? Look at the scan: pleasure centers here, here and here.) A nation of individuals who see themselves as soulless—what a hell that’ll be.
Last night during a thundershower, waiting for my wife and daughter in a high school parking lot, I fully reclined the driver’s seat of my Subaru so I could relax while I listened as neurological researcher Jill Bolte Taylor told Terry Gross of public radio’s Fresh Air about her stroke, which confined her temporarily and almost exclusively to the right hemisphere of her brain. “As the language centers in my left hemisphere grew increasingly silent,” she read from her memoir, A Stroke of Insight, “my consciousness soared into an all-knowingness, a ‘being at one’ with the universe, if you will. …It felt like the good road home and I liked it.”
On the second day, God divided the waters, and called the all-knowing half “heaven.”
The Bible isn’t neurology, it’s poetry, and yet isn’t the whole thing an enduring metaphor for how we human beings think about ourselves? If “heaven” were just a name given to the right hemisphere of the human brain, divided from the left by its waters, would any less effort be required of us to believe it?
I am not a Christian any more than anyone else, but in my grasp of the idea of heaven, I may neither be any less so. (Anyone who hears a story is a believer, if only for the duration and regardless of interpretation.) I like to imagine the Bible’s poets were describing known things, not unknown things, when they penned one of the greatest pillow books ever written. Moses surely understood light’s mastery of mystery. He was human, wasn’t he? He must have known, too, that the opposite of strife is joy. He needed no fMRI to map it for him; his language was pre-scientific. But that only makes the vividness of the Genesis poem, and Moses’ invention of “heaven,” more wonderful.
Art has a responsibility to the human. Science will require it, if we are ever, as a kind, to be of one mind.
As I write this, my wife and kids are upstairs asleep, rolling on the waters of the subconscious. The dream state: the wellspring of metaphor.
I am tired. I have been semi-linear enough for one night. I’ll join them and drift… sift right through the network of neurons that mark me as literal, and join the figurative soul that transcends the whole…