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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.


Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
17 March 2008 @ 10pm

Hey buddy! =:) Wow, man, your recollection of your grandfather moves me a lot. I’ve been having some weird problems with balance and focus lately, so while this topic has always concerned and fascinated (and to be perfectly honest, scared the crap out of) me, it has of late become something that I’m more more acutely aware of, especially having spent a recent weekend in the nearby hospital.

The movies (Vanilla Sky, A Beautiful Mind, Donnie Darko) and books (Skin by Ted Dekker, etc.) that always get me spooked and freaked out of my shorts are the ones that deal with not being able to trust what you’re seeing, thinking, feeling, understanding, etc. The brain is an amazing thing and I think what frightens me most is the thought of not being able to trust what it is that my brain is telling me.

Anyway, just wanted to say that your post resonated deeply with me.

I miss you. =:)

19 March 2008 @ 8pm

Sorry to hear that, Jason.

I think we may have had this conversation back in the day. While I think that the brain is inarguably fragile, that capacity is ultimately outmatched by its ability to be healed. In any event, I can understand your concern.

I hope you’re feeling better.

You too.