My TBR reading list has changed dramatically in the last few years and books on neuroscience are ranking near the top of the pile. I know I am not alone in this trend; in Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media, Davi Johnson Thornton says the brain has become the holy grail for all answers related to human experience. In recent years, this includes heated discussions of religion (e.g. Persinger’s “God helmet”).
In this review of Brain Culture, Maria Popova, writes that, “far from a mere motherboard, the brain has swollen into one of humanity’s greatest obsessions,” and in fact, has become a “muse.”
It is the idea of the brain as a muse that struck me.
The night before this review was pointed out to me by my friend Karyn Traphagen, I was discussing this very idea with Mindy (my Discarded Image co-editor) in reference to Death Cab’s “St. Peter’s Cathedral,” where in haunting tones we are asked to consider wether religion is really a matter of chemicals—chemicals that are there to help us come to grips with the possibility that “there is nothing past this.” Perhaps religion is the brain’s way of helping us cope with this life eventual and definitive end, we are asked to consider. The brain as muse is hard to ignore and will likely exceed the current mythological status it holds in popular culture until the reality of our own limitations hit us, that is, if we are capable of recognizing those limits for what they are.