I am my brain and we largely are our language

J.W. Richter

"Each of us is his own brain” or “We are our brains”
We Are Our Brains1 is a fascinating book, explaining how our individual brain is ticking. Of course many of the topics may seem familiar to us, but Swaab also documents strange and unknown peculiarities, which are deluding human life. Swaab's book however concentrates on the individual brain. Only a few chapters are dealing with cooperating and sharing information in a couple or a group of individuals such as the relation of a mother and her unborn, respectively newborn child, the experience of first love and the linguistic (Broca) center in the brain. In fact the original Dutch title “Wij zijn ons brein” uses a singular for the word “brain”, which in the translation has been altered to “brains”. In Dutch the book's title therefore may be considered as confusing, suggesting that we are applying a common or shared brain, which definitely has not been described in Swaab's work. Unlike a modern computer the brain is encapsulated and its contents cannot completely be downloaded or transferred to others. A transfer of information will only partially be allowed in a cumbersome way. The standard method for inter-human information transfer is spoken or written language or the signs, caresses and artworks with which we communicate without words. The more precise title for Swaab's work might be “Each of us is his own brain”, in which merely a small percentage of the contents are concentrating on inter-human relations. In the end however even these inter-human relations are based on individually encapsulated brains, communicating with the use of very limited coding, which evidently will produce a great number of communicating errors and problems.

I am my brain and we (largely) are our language2.
Referring to the plural pronoun “we” the title We Are Our Brains I suggest to describe the issue more precisely as “I am my brain and we (largely) are our language”, in which the adverb “largely” refers to the nonverbal ways of communication between persons. In his book Swaab also refers to the emperor Frederick II's experiment in which he had dozens of newborn babies raised without any linguistic communication. The experiment had been intended to reveal God's language, but failed dramatically. None of the children learned any kind of language and they died at an early age. For this reason good communication between people is required to raise healthy children and “Each of us is his own brain” is not sufficient for children to survive. The most important communication tool we have to transfer information between brains is language and that aspect is to be covered by the second part “we (largely) are our language” of the title.

I am my brain and we are our communications
In order to include other communication methods we might even alter the title to “I am my brain and we are our communications”, in which communications include language and all other nonverbal means of communication.

1 Dick Swaab - We Are Our Brains. From the womb to Alzheimer’s 2 Ik ben mijn brein en wij zijn grotendeels onze taal

A linguistic hierarchy
Coupled Brains
Each study may include a sub-study which concentrates on its main topics. This may be done in studying brains, but also for the elementary communications between brains. Maybe we even may allow ourselves to reduce intercommunication between brains to the simplified model of two brains, which are functioning as transmitter/receivers in an elementary data-link. Even in a 100.000-fold edition of a book the reading may still be reduced to the 1:1 communication between author and reader.

“One Flesh” with “one brain”
Can we realistically imagine old peoples and a medieval society in which an individual human being had been considered as a halved “man”, in which man itself had been composed as a married couple, respectively as any combination of two adults, including man/man- and woman/womancouples? These combinations may also have been considered as “one flesh” sharing “one brain”, which has been documented in the Bible. The prototype of such a couple may have been comparable to Adam Kadmon, who originally must have been a man/woman-being, which had to be split in a male and a female half..

Halving respectively joining brains
Halving the first androgynous man into two persons automatically halving “the flesh”, but also halving the brain to two brains. Although the ancient peoples probably did not know too much about the brain's functionality we know Plato's description of the procedure. In Symposium Plato imagines man and woman had been separated before their birth and after growing up desperately searched for their missing half. The attractive forces of erotic love between these partners had to be explained by this creation legend and the explanation has been invented by the brain's fantasy. In the procedures of separating the originally united brain and joining two brains to “one brain in one flesh” we will have to investigate how the “ego” has been interpreted. Had the ego been defined as the combination of man and women in a married couple or as the individual man and woman, who had been individuals before their marriage. The ancient societies may have considered an idealized form of Adam Kadmon as their prototype of the “ego” and the corresponding image of the Creator God. These concepts may still be identified in the old dual declensions and in the ancient structures of the ego-pronouns, for example in Provencal language, in which the ego-pronoun “iéu” correlates to the name of God “Diéu”. In its simplest concept language merely concentrates on the dual relation between a male Adam and female Eve, in which we restrict our wordings to the pronouns “I” and “you”, the male and the female duality and the androgynous “we”-form. These words have always been the most important words of languages ever since. The ancient concepts of splitting up and joining brains and the exact definition of the ego-concept may be rather unimportant for the modern analysis of the brains' functionality. The original concepts however may have been a stabilizing factor in a number of diseases. Somehow Swaab describes diseases which may have been compensated by the ancient linguistic concepts. The unity of marital partners, which had been considered as holy and eternal, turned into a simple legal, temporal contract, which did not refer to any of the original divine concepts.

The idea of a marital partners, who considered themselves as a divine image in their marriage must have provided a strong link between persons. In modern society this link has been replaced by social contracts and laws. It remains to be seen whether these social contracts are sustainable enough to last for more than one decade. It may also happen that these structures disappear and society degrades to the Survival of the fittest”-model, in which each person takes care of himself and “the state” will have to take care of the rest.

One of the most fascination topics of the book is the brain's ability to complete missing elements in the overview with the help of fantasy. The brain will always try to keep a perfect overview over situations. Whenever a black hole is detected for the first time a child will invent some idea to fill the missing link. Of course the child will easily accept an idea from a trusted adult if the idea is able to fill the gap. The same procedure is used by the brain if in an adult brain a black hole has been created by an accident or a disease, such as Alzheimer. The disease may cause a partial blackout, which may either be temporal or a lasting disturbance. In both cases fantasy will initiate the generation of the suitable missing links.

The trick may be observed in Alzheimer patients, who may forget some events in their daily life and fill in the forgotten topics to complete their memorial data storage. The Alzheimer patients do not recognize which information in their brain has been generated by fantasy and what has been restored from the intact parts of their memory. If warned by their relatives they sometimes recognize the errors, but often they refuse to accept the truth and insist on the correctness of their memory.

The delusion of the brain by completing missing information may also be observed in Fata Morganas, in a successful magician's trick, in magical healing and in religion. Anything important which cannot be understood may be explained as an act of a superior or almighty Being, who will take care of justice and control the environment. Religion therefore probably belongs to the standard tools of the brain to keep a balance in the middle of chaotic situations, such as wartime, famine and widespread epidemics. It replaces the parents in their protective, custodial function, protecting their children against dangers. In stabilized modern parts of the world the chaotic situations may seem to have disappeared. Social contracts and laws guarantee a fair income and some economical protection by insurances against disasters. These social mechanisms however may quickly disappear in economical collapses, which have been recovering to quite realistic levels lately. Chaotic collapses may return and these events will result in a revival of religious concepts, generated by our brains as missing links and completing our knowledge in order to stabilize the chaotic environment. These concepts probably resemble Plato's creation legend of the first man in Symposium and the brain's fantasy will automatically generate a similar legend to guarantee the survival procedure. We know it is a delusion, but we may also understand that the delusion is a standard rescue procedure in which the brain is compensating an exorbitant and dangerous imbalance. In this sense religion belongs to the brain's toolbox for the survival situation.

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