The Impossible Dream
The powerful and moving story of Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke reminds me why I tend to be so personally interested in the mechanics of the human brain, sometimes taking great lengths to apply that interest into my own discipline.
In 1983 my grandfather suffered a debilitating stroke which rendered the left side of his entire body non-functioning for most purposes, including his brain. Because of his paralysis, he was robbed of speech for the remainder of his life, limited only to a few non-sensical words.
In his health my grandfather was a gifted musician who could play any instrument, from banjo, to drums, to piano–you name it. He operated in high command of his creative right brain for the better part of his time on earth. Part of the tragedy of his stroke was the thought of never seeing that side of him again.
Having visited him so often while he was in private care, I had witnessed many days when his inability to communicate clearly frustrated him, at the same time revealing his conscious sense of sadness. Then one quiet day, when my family got together for a special occasion, perhaps on his birthday, he gave us all a surprise. My aunt, who was also talented at the piano, decided to play a familiar song for my grandfather. And without hesitation, seemingly out from nowhere, he started to sing for us. In perfect clarity. Forming perfect words. Perfect melodies.
It was simply one of the most spiritual and at once scientific experiences I have ever encountered. It fascinates and inspires me beyond my own powers of articulation. One day we may come to understand the consciousness of being. Until then, we’ll slowly be informed by these tiny little awe-inspiring surprises.
And because it simply cannot be missed, here is Jill’s recent talk.