A Curious Intellect* Visits the Heartland
Once. There was big, beautiful, clever brain. It was a very curious brain, and traveled all over the world of ideas, from field to field, across seas of knowledge and mountains of data. It collected trophies and specimens and souvenirs from its travels. By studying these carefully, it unpacked many mysteries, and discovered significant systems that seemed to be foundational patterns underlying the secrets of the universe.
It was a happy brain.
But there was one continent that perplexed the brain. Heartland. On it, lived an unruly and irrational inhabitants whose culture did not seem to fit into any of the patterns or systems that the brain had examined. Naturally, this piqued the curiosity of the brain. Though irrational, the hearts were exceptionally beautiful beings that cast a soft ethereal light that warmed the world around them — and while the brain had a great admiration for beauty, and had seen many many beautiful things in its explorations, this beauty eclipsed everything. The brain needed to understand this much more.
The brain quickly encountered a difficulty. It could not figure out the language of the hearts. It was, however, a brain, and was industrious when inspired. So, it eventually, with much, much, much — oh my god so much — practice the brain began to recognize some of the patterns in the language. This pleased the brain to no end. The brain began to feel things that it had not felt before. It was tidal wave of new data to consider! The brain’s deep interest in the hearts as they spoke ushered in a sense of connection that the brain didn’t know exactly what to do with. The brain listened intently, and was very happy. Sensing that the brain felt a connection pleased the hearts as well, who, by their nature, sought to connect with others, and were intrigued by this curious stranger to their land who seemed so interested in their normal lives.
Over time, the brain developed more feelings, and managed to invent a clumsy but rudimentary algorithm to convert its own feelings into words the hearts recognized. The brain was very happy the hearts could finally understand it, and began to run all its feelings through the algorithm to finally share with the hearts how wonderful it felt, and how it wished it were easier to connect! The hearts were often confused by the odd and sometimes insulting syntax that the new speaker used, but we’re delighted by the effort and expected that they and the brain would soon become very close.
However, there was another thing. Just as there was light in the day, and darkness in the night, the brain noticed that the inhabitants experienced both lightness and darkness. While the light brought blinding joy and a tremendous glow that stirred something wonderful in him, there was also a terrible darkness in these beings. Though the brain sensed danger there, the brain was brave, and ventured forth to try to live among the inhabitants. They saw it meant no harm, and greeted it with such radiant beauty that the brain was smitten. And all went well for a time. The brain would feel warm, connected, and bathed in light. But then the brain would notice a darkness cross the faces of the those closest to it, and invariably, they would either pull away, or draw closer. And the closer they came to him, the more the darkness affected them, dimming their glow. Sometimes they would draw so close that their light was nearly extinguished, and they would cry out in anguish. This was as odd to them as it was to the brain. One at a time, a few with strong lights were so determined with the brain to figure it out, that they pushed closer and weaker, and closer and weaker — driven by the last flickers of their light, until they could stand no more. The brain noticed that the more beautifully brilliant the heart glowed, the more they got hurt as they drew close to him. This made him quite sad because those were the hearts he most admired, and most wanted to understand.
The brain was a brain. Therefore, it was not completely dumb. It recognized what the pattern was. But it was frustrated because it could not understand why the pattern was. It tried very hard to get close to the inhabitants who were willing to try with it. But, because it was a nice brain, even a kind brain, it began warning the inhabitants of the pattern. Sometimes the brain would see an exceptionally bright and beautiful light that it could not help but want to draw close. And the brain would love that light so much that it kept it at a safe distance in order to be able to continue enjoying its light.
One day, one of the hearts approached the brain with an idea to take a Heart language learning class, with an actual teacher. (Sort of an obvious idea in retrospect). The next thing the brain knew, it was in a room with ten strange but powerful hearts who had joined forces to help the brain discover what was happening. Together, the hearts’ lights could not be dimmed.
And the brain realized that at some time, farther back that its memory could recount, something had short circuited its pain receptors. It could not recount ever being significantly hurt. Of course, it wasn’t just pain receptors that were fried. The group pitched in and helped scrape the char off the circuits. They helped with some basic rewiring. With this new (forgotten?) information now known, the brain vowed that he would get back to work and refurbish all the circuits. He had begun.
(To be continued…)
* Curious, but not particularly bright.