Last year I published a book titled Passing Thoughts of a Wandering Fool. It was my first attempt at digital publishing. Since then I’ve learned a lot, but that is not what I want to write about. What I’d like to do today is share just a small portion of that publication with you.
For the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about memories—why we remember some things quite vividly, while others just fade away, lying in some dark corner where we might never be able to retrieve them. Does anyone know why this occurs? Probably not. But, I’m sure we taxpayers have paid for such studies over and over again, through the years, like we have done with the mating habits of the African tree frog, or some such inane study.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend where we discussed the idea that music is much like the sense of smell when it comes to reliving certain memories. We are all aware that some odors instantly take us back in time. Like the smell of a freshly baked apple pie makes us remember Grandma’s house on a crisp fall day. Or, the smell of that intoxicating perfume might take a young man back in time to his first love. There are so many instances where we travel back in time because of a smell we encounter.
Music does pretty much the same thing to me. A song can take me back to that high school gym where I danced with the lovely….well, never mind. Just know that music has an affect on my mental status, the same as an odor might. Some of those memories are pleasant, some are not, each of them brought on by the haunting sounds of a song.
I’m getting off track here. What I want to do is share with you a theory I have about brain cells. Dead brain cells can have a devastating effect on thoughts and the ideas that spring eternally from your mind. But, I tend to believe that they might also change the way we think about memories. When you read this excerpt from Passing Thoughts of a Wandering Fool think about your ideas and thoughts, and how an oil slick of dead cells might might affect your memory. Or, does it?
Here, then is chapter one of Passing Thoughts of a Wandering Fool:
Let’s Do It
“It’s like I told you tomorrow. We’re going to do it yesterday.” (Billy Joe Shaver)
A bit ago I mentioned dead brain cells. We all have them. How we handle them is a somewhat different for each of us. I like to slide through mine without a care in the world and come out the other side not knowing where I am or how I got there. Some find this rather disconcerting. At one time I did, too. I’ve since outgrown that imperfection. Imperfection? What makes me think that such a character trait is an imperfection? Is it even a character trait, and can you outgrow it? Must be the dead brain cells talking.
Okay, lets talk some about dead brain cells. How do they come about? We’re only born with so many grey matter cells between our ears. As we age they begin to die off and, unlike other types of cells in our body, are not replaced. Some of us spend our time hastening the demise of these useful cells. Whether we speed the process along or not it’s inevitable that we lose a few (thousand/million?) now and then.
One way to accumulate dead brain cells is through pruning. Think about a fruit tree. If you don’t prune them on a yearly basis you do not get good fruit from their branches. I grew up in an area known to produce vast quantities of the foods we consume in this country. Pruning there is an annual process. You cut off the branches least apt to produce good fruit allowing the nutrients to be directed to the areas where it is needed. Too many branches or too much fruit in an area is detrimental to a healthy harvest.
When it comes to the brain we already know that we will be losing some of those important cells regularly. Why not direct that loss to the ones least apt to provide strength of thought necessary to carry us through the days/weeks/months/years? So, I’ve determined that the pruning process is a very valuable tool that should be utilized on a semi-regular basis. Some tend to implement the process regularly, however through the years I’ve begun to think that a semi-regular regimen is best for me. Maybe too many “regular” sessions earlier in life has clouded my judgment, but that is something I am going to have to live with now that I’ve hiked to the peak of the mountain and am sliding down the other side. In short, I am quickly approaching middle age and beyond.
Anyway, the problem with all these dead brain cells is that they tend to accumulate in one place. You know. Like kind attracts like kind. So, you wind up with very large patches of useless material that become detrimental to the thinking process. It’s kind of like an oil slick in the middle of the sea. Useless in its being and harmful to all that come near it. So, these patches of dead brain cells are not very useful to ordinary thought. Think about this. You’ve got a good thought going only to lose it somewhere in the process – as in losing your train of thought – it jumped track and took off for parts unknown. What has happened is that you’ve wandered into an area reserved for dead cells (the body never gets rid of dead brain cells – only collects them in designated areas without warning signs). As you slip and slide through that slick of cells you tend to forget what you were thinking. When you get spit out the other side you are at a loss as to where you were along your road of thought. It’s a terrifying experience when first encountered, but one everybody comes upon from time to time.
Another problem is that you may have come upon some weaker cells that should have been placed at the front of the line for destruction. The body is indiscriminate when it comes to killing off cells in the brain. It just grabs its scythe and goes to slashing away. This is where you can help yourself. Get rid of those weaker, useless cells before they become a liability. That will, at least, be one problem out of the way early on in the process called aging.
So, now you ask, “How does one go about getting rid of those weaker brain cells without damaging the good ones?”
You got out and cull them from the herd of cells you utilize to get you through life. You want the best you can have, so you actively cut those unwanted cells when you have the opportunity. By taking the matter into your own hands you can direct those cells to the discard pile and only deal with them as you are sliding through that oil slick of useless grey matter and not when you are dependent on the synergy of thought to get you through to the conclusion of an important idea.
“Okay, so you still haven’t told me how do accomplish this.”
Oh, that’s right. Alcohol. And, it doesn’t take large quantities to do that, either. For every shot you ingest you kill of a few hundred thousand cells – or is it millions? I can’t remember and the number is too high for me to count anyway. When I was a young man (much younger than I am now) I thought I needed many shots of the devil’s beverage to accomplish this feat. I was wrong. Only an occasional dose of this pruning material will get you what you need. You see if these cells up there between my ears can’t handle what I put them through then they are no good to me. They need to be strong and steadfast in the face of adversity.
If alcohol is not your cup of tea. Now that I’ve mentioned tea let me tell you about, probably, the best morning beverage around. It’s tea. Very strong tea. I like to take a large mug of hot water and steep a couple of bags of Earl Grey. Make it nice and strong. It’s better than coffee like that. Once you get that tea to the desired strength drop a shot of Irish whiskey into it and sip away. It starts your day off real nice like.
Back to something other than alcohol. Bad thoughts do the same thing as the devil’s drink when it comes to pruning those not-so-good brain cells. As a matter of fact I think it may accomplish the job much quicker than alcohol. The problem lies, though, in that it is so much more difficult to paddle your way out of the middle of the slick of dead cells. You see, you have to personally take them to the discard pile and dump them off. The body will not do it for you like it does with the alcohol method. And, if you ever get caught up in the middle of that cesspool you can find yourself drowning. The last thought on your mind (the bad one) will stay with you until you can swim to shore – if you can swim to shore.
I’m sure there are other ways to prune those unwanted cells, but I’ve found an occasional alcoholic drink works for me. Whether it be an “olive dip” or a cold beer (even a glass of wine now and then does the job) I like to push those weaker cells toward the pile of unwanted on my own terms and not have those terms dictated for me.
Prune away, but keep in mind that life is too short to drink cheap beer.