No One is Reading This

November 11, 2008

Neuro-Bio Gems from Jonah Lehrer

Filed under: Art Matters,World View — Ninja @ 3:19 am


I give Proust was a Neuroscientist an 8 out of 10 for its ability to provoke thought in me and allow me to contemplate on my own assumptions about creativity, genius and the mind/body split.    If I ask you to visualize someone who is creative and/or brilliant what sort of person do you think about?  Special K thinks of Leonardo Da Vinci.   I think of some young mathematician.  Often I think of some young person who burns out his or her flame brilliantly and quickly – like Rimbaud, Michael Jackson, or Boy George.  Athletes often fall into this category.  Their talents are external.  They are so obviously dependent on the ability of their bodies to perform according to a range of activity that is almost never available to our aging shells.

In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks writes about a forty-two year old man who after he was struck by lightening, becomes a musical prodigy.  Sacks loves to write about people who, at various points in their lives, because of neurological changes, develop talents previously unknown to them.  In Proust was a Neuroscientist, Lehrer instead focuses on established artists who reveal neuroscience through their art.  He explores where the body ends and mind begins and vice versa.  He asks what it means to be aware and conscious as human beings.   Personally, I tend to think that we are just a random collection of protein.  And that there is no distinction between the mind and the body.  My mind is in my toes and heart as much as it is in my brain. My brain is simply where the electronics gather to interpret.    About our experience inside ourselves, Virgina Woolf said: “We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself “.   And in reponse to this process, Leher is comfortable asserting that “…only the artist [is] able to describe reality as it [is] actually experienced”. Here are some of the other ways that Lehrer describes that same experience:

…the mind is not a place: it’s a process.

The self is simply…the story we tell ourselves about our experiences.

Reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed; reality is made by the mind.

When it comes to the drama of feelings, our flesh is its stage.


Marcel Proust



  1. I found you by accident, but love This book sounds interesting, although I think there are more people than just artists who can describe reality. Personally, I find it in religion, perhaps because my artistic side is lacking.

    Comment by Austin — November 11, 2008 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  2. Austin,

    I think you are completely correct – especially if you consider that we are all artists, every single one of us, in our own ways.

    Comment by Ninja — November 12, 2008 @ 12:29 am | Reply

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