Isn’t That Heavy?
Your Brain: A User Manual. Part 1
Your thinking is something that is yours and yours alone. Whilst there are things that everyone on this planet does, no two of them happen in quite the same way. What’s more, humans are really good at it. I mean really, really good at it. It is as if they were born to think! Everything that happens to them is thought about, everything they do has been thought out. Which is where the brain comes into its own.
This series is all about thinking. The tool we use to think is our brain, and it is this that I want to look at today. In this brief series we will look at the brain. We will look at what it is, and how it goes about its business. This is not about how your brain thinks for you – this is all about how you use your brain to think. You and your ability to think. This is not about neuroscience, if you want that, look at Wikipedia or something. The problem there is that you will get bogged down in details. And when people get bogged down in the details is when they want others to do the thinking for them. That is to say, they cop out.
Because neuroscience can only tell you what happens. This is an attempt to tell you why it happens – and that is way harder to do. Because I am not so much interested in the facts about our brain – important as they are – this is about understanding the way we think. The first part of understanding our thinking is knowing about it. That is to say, we need to know what our brains are and do, at least in general terms.
Because this manual is about using your brain. Not thinking abstract thoughts about it. It is about using your brain, and using it for what it was made for. You might think I contradicted myself in these two sentences. Understanding why I do not is as good a reason as any to read through to the end.
There is something really special about your brain that few ever think about. Everybody goes on about the mechanics of thinking, the firing of neurons and how electrical stimuli can do this or that. Somehow science misses some of the more obvious things, put better, takes them for granted. Worse, some things simply go unnoticed.
Your brain is actually quite heavy. In fact its really heavy when you think where it is, for it weighs much the same as a telephone directory.Put one of those on your head and you may begin to feel its weight irritating you. Distracting you.
Our brain weighs around three pounds – one and a half kilos. So why doesn’t your head feel like it is stuffed with heavy sand? Just feel your head. It doesn’t feel heavy at all, does it? It isn’t your neck either, it all has to do with where the neck muscles wind up. They are attached deep in the structure of your shoulders. And this is our clue. Because it isn’t the muscles that are doing the work here. It is way more subtle, and the secret is water.
Water? Okay, cerebral fluid! It acts like water. The brain literally floats in your head and all that weight is taken down through your neck and down into your abdomen. Imagine your head like a large wineglass where the stem is hollow and allows the water to flow down into the base where it all gets spread out. Because this is where your brain floats so serenely.
In a manner as elegant as it is simple, the brain’s weight is taken by the cerebral fluid in the bowl of the wineglass. It passes through the narrow stem and down to the wide base of the wineglass where it is all dispersed. Because this is how the considerable weight of your brain is dispersed. That wineglass is the lower half of your skull, the stem is your backbone and your abdomen forms the base. Its weight is taken by the cerebral fluid down to your back and beyond by the sublime architecture of the human form. Three pounds feels like an ounce – 1500g feels like 15. You have this big heavy thing in your head, yet you don’t feel any of it.
In this way, your brain is freed from 99% of its weight.
All that weight almost literally disappears. At least it feels that way. This means you don’t need to concentrate on keeping a heavy head upright all the time. You aren’t constantly irritated by your brain pressing on the bones that enclose it. All that would distract you from thinking! The entire body formation frees our brain from gravity. So that you are left to deal with the things that are important: your thoughts.
Other Parts In This Series:
Part 2: “What Are These Little Grey Cells?”