Thursday, October 18, 2012
I was struck by a personal illumination a week or two after returning to Ghana. I had had the long hard summer of the expected operation for a hernia but then was forced to undergo the assault of treatment on my right eye’s detached retina. The effects are recounted in the Latest News diary at www.chronometerpublications.me. Now, reading the diary, I see the brave face I was putting on. I managed to do much that was part of my daily disciplines: writing, reading, driving, exercising. But it was in a twilight world where verve and vibrancy had been banished to the margins. I only realise this now. I felt at the time the transiency of life and the speeding up march of death. This, as I have inferred above, changed once I got to Accra and started swimming every morning and luxuriating in a heat that is constant, humid and cosseting. I reconnected with my sense of immortality (entirely spurious I know!).
But it got me thinking. We always assume that the mind (brain) gets to the point when it has had enough of life. “She lost the will to live.” “There was nothing left to live for.” But supposing it is not like that? I wrote recently that the heart has its own separate brain and it now seems possible that different organs also have neuronal complexities, communicating with the brain but also autonomous at times. I also read that eye conditions often presage an earlier death. So my thesis at this current point in my life is that the body tells the brain to shut down as often as the other way round. It makes sense. The body is in a slow but quickening downward spiral from our early twenties and there may come a point when gradually it turns its lights off.
It suggests that the focus on staying alive (if that’s your plan) may need far more concentration on making the body a temple to vibrancy through diet, exercise and social tactility, at least as much as doing crosswords and taking up a new hobby. Then the brain is forced to reassess and do its job, if grudgingly.