I’ve been reading some fascinating books recently.
The first was Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary published by Yale University Press.
This book is all about the brain and believe me, it’s not for the faint hearted. I know a bit about medicine and the discipline of neurology, but the author of this book is in a league of his own. Here’s what Prof A C Grayling said in his review: “It embraces a prodigious range of enquiry, from neurology to psychology, from philosophy to primatologist, from myth to history to literature..”
I’m a night time reader and I found that after just reading two or three pages of this book, my brain could take no more and I’d fall asleep like a child. Not out of boredom, but because of the sheer density of fact and erudition that I’d just absorbed. I suspect that it took me several hours of sleep to allow my subconscious to sort out what I’d just read. Several weeks later I completed the book and let out a small cheer which temporarily distracted my wife from her Kindle. Nevertheless, I feel so much wiser for having completed such an Herculean task.
The second book which I am currently reading is called How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan and published by Penguin Press. It’s about Magic Mushrooms and other associated psychedelic drugs. But before you think I’m trying to relive the ‘Sixties (I wouldn’t remember it anyway) this is a well researched book and picks up on recent scientific publications which are showing some remarkable results when using these medications IN MEDICALLY CONTROLLED SITUATIONS, in cases of Depression, Addiction and End of life anxiety issues. The results are truly dramatic. The book poses the question of what is consciousness and how do we perceive it.
I know that when I write my books I am mildly surprised to discover all these characters and situations that have been “living in my head” for so many years without my knowledge of them. The more we study the brain the more intriguing and amazing we find it to be.
Inside each of our heads is a unique and parallel universe which we so often limit by constantly aping other peoples imaginations and other people’s ideas. We each have our own unique gifts, insights and talents which can be augmented and stimulated by reading, music, nature, other cultures, religion, meditation - the list is a long one. When we look at an infant in a cot and watch the sheer wonder in their face as they watch the sunlight through the leaves on a tree, that’s the sort of wonder that each of us still have within our own minds - it’s just that it’s been caked with layer after layer of other peoples expectations and fear of our own failure.
Reading such books, difficult as they sometimes are, helps expand our understanding of who and why we ‘are’.
Finally, earlier this week, I held in my hand the third book in my Renaissance Brothers series. It was such a good feeling. You should try it!