Friday, December 19, 2014

Unknown of the Mind


The mind is a fascinating piece of stuff. 

I am not sure if mind and the brain are the same, or whether mind is the software in the brain .

But strangely , one always assumed the "mind" was somewhere near the heart, a greatly esteemed organ , even before the technical intricacies of its working came to be known. .

In one's growing up years, there was an element of God associated with the mind. Firm beliefs that certain stotras and prayers afforded you relief in troubled times. Confirmations, that you sometimes got struck with a stroke of good sense simply by divine intervention of some sort.  And someone, with a convoluted sense of good and bad, and a perceived pest was simply that way as a result of his bad karma.

Today, in the days of brain chemicals, firing neurons, stubborn synapses, and angry amygdalas, there is still a sneaking  thought, that divine intervention still works; despite medications that , say, straighten you out, Some One Up There clearly has the final Say; and a lot of stuff that decides how your mind functions majorly depends on interactions and understanding of people around you.

He was in his late eighties. A sprightly , healthy person, with a love for exercise, yoga, literature, creative writing, and nutrition, and despite blood values that were exemplary, at some point age caught up with him. The body engine defaulted on energy and he was bedridden.

At first the mind functioned perfectly.  He had his favorite foods, favourite people, favourite topics , and things he greatly disapproved off. But it slowly became a great effort , physically to hold forth on these.  The mind was in full force, and he would get very angry about this inability, and  complain bitterly.

 His walking friends from the park near the house, came to visit him, and were amazed to hear him say that he would soon be joining them once he recovered.

That was the time, the mind made its foray into a wishful  realm.

He would talk and tell his caregivers about how he had just done a 2 km walk that morning, even specifying where he went. He would forget that he had lunch, and pull up folks for not bringing him his lunch. But he still remembered people. His caregivers, his doctor , his doctor's late grandpa (a doc who was his friend),  neighbors, and relatives.

Then came a time, when he stopped recognizing folks. Except his caregivers.

He would remember assorted details about others, but their names and the ability to recognize eluded him. He had overseas immediate family, and he forgot their names but remembered that they were "very far away"; he didn't recognize them when they came to see him.  

But interestingly, his mind kept track of the fact that he was supposed to recognize some folks and he couldn't, and so, whenever he now faced someone on a visit or on the phone, he would exclaim and act out a generic greeting, smiling and nodding his head, saying Hello, and Welcome, and so forth. It made the visitor feel good, the person on the phone , happy, and his daily caregivers were simply astounded to see how his mind was able , in its apparently confused state, to pull off this thing.

On random visits of folks like relatives he couldn't recognize, he would suddenly enquire about someone of theirs his mind  apparently connected to; but he simply couldn't put names  to people. It was as if there was a list of names in his mind, and a few records were corrupted, and so , unlinkable to other information. Strangely , he sometimes remembered the other info, but the link to the corresponding name had gone. 

A caregiver who worked in IT, often wondered whether there was anything like a "root" brain, that managed  all this linking, playacting,  memory and stuff.

The energy loss continued, and eating became a tiring activity, even though someone was feeding him his favorite foods.  He would go through stages of stupor, sleep, and non stop verbalizing. At times he was very alert in real time. He started confusing the identities of his caregivers, and often mentioned names of people who he imagined visited with him, but actually did not.  It became an effort even to open his eyes, and a a couple of spoonfuls of soup like sambhaar would tire him, and he would hold his hand up.

A kind of withdrawal  of his mind within itself was apparent to all, and everyone worked at communicating normally with him, and keeping up his normal routine , hoping it was a changeable phase.

The mind is a strange entity.

He had lost all concept of time, day and night. The caregivers kept caring and feeding him to keep up his energy levels,  whenever he was awake and amenable to it.  His eyes were mostly closed, and he would gesticulate with his hands and by mouthing words. Clearly , he was unable to identify people around him, and had stopped recognizing folks.

His daughter was feeding him soup late  that night.  Very clearly, he could not see that it was her.  He had a few spoons, and then indicated , that he had enough by holding up his palm in his bed.  He whispered his daughter's name, and in a perplexing display of energy, raised his entire arm up, trying to ascertain where she stood bending over him, and tried to  touch her face. With his eyes , open almost like slits, he imperceptibly moved his face, touched her face, mouthed her name, cupped her chin like you would for a small child, and then she felt his hand go limp  as she held it in her grasp.  

What came over his mind in his last moments ? How did he remember her name, and how did he know it was her feeding him ? What gave him the energy to lift his arms, seek and cup her face in his hand ?  Was there some unknown energy that fired his mind in his last moments , temporarily going back in time ?  Was there a final moment of revelation in his mind, when just for an instant, the brain functioned at full power, remembering his family, just before asymptotically sliding to a null value ? 

Like I said, the mind is a fascinating thing.  Like I said , the mind may be the software in the brain. 

But somewhere,  despite all the fancy brain research, medications, predictability of brain conditions, and theories of development of a single cell into a homo sapien over millions of years,  why does it keep occurring to me, that there will always be an Unknown of the Mind ?
 
 And possibly, what I believed in my growing up years , was true ?
   

3 comments:

  1. I too believe in a kind of higher energy that controls our lives. Call it God or one's own conscience it does have the capacity to enable us to distinguish wrong from right and warns us in time. You can fool the world but never can fool the inner voice at best you can ignore it. However, in the case of the person mentioned by you I have no explanation and tend to agree that it is a case of a software that is crashing little by little. Then there is the concept of two states of a mind. The heart and the head. The head reasons but the heart responds to emotions. What would that be? Two variants of the same software?

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  3. Thank you once again
    for writing a poem about me.
    Special warm wishes to you
    as this New Year begins :)

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