Birthdays, Brains and Books

Stanko & Tibor - Books vs TV

Birthday Makes Brain Go Bad

While walking with my younger daughter the other day, I was made painfully aware that my brain and most of its attendant functions peaked in terms of performance a number of years ago. Whether that number is in the single or double digits is a matter of speculation for people with mathematical and scientific knowledge. Neither of which I possess anymore since those bits of my brain probably fell out or were destroyed with loud rock ‘n roll music. To say nothing of the intense alcohol and chocolate danish abuse I have subjected my body to. But I digress.

While walking, she asked me a simple question that really only required me dipping into my porous memory for a name of someone I knew was somewhere in there, but I just plain forgot until she reminded me who it was. Which I forgot some 20 seconds after she reminded me.

Her follow-on question was even more perceptive and unintentionally hurtful. Why couldn’t I remember names of people I am supposed to know, not to mention simple things like how to reset that there device in the house? Without hesitation I had an answer for her, since I could explain it, I didn’t have to recall a fact real, imagined or alternative.

I told her that my brain has reached the point of maturity, or fermentation, where my goal is to prevent bits and bytes of info from falling out of my grey matter cells, albeit to little avail. You want me to quote horsepower ratings, the Simpsons, or Young Frankenstein, sure, no problem. However, other recent facts, and even not so recent ones, like my children’s dates of birth, are lost to the dark, detritus-filled chambers and recesses of my brain. Or my brain realized that the hippocampus has probably either hippo-like submerged into murky waters, or the campus part has decamped and left for distant shores.

My goal now at this ripe age of 50 is to desperately remember, without a worried look on my face,  where the hell I put my car keys, wallet and the password to my phone when my fingers are too wet or greasy from cooking for the fingerprint recognition to work. (I have debated getting the new iPhone X with its facial recognition, but I am told it doesn’t recognize hideous troll-like features my loving and pain-killer-addicted sister said I possess in abundance. So much for technology and sibling love.)

I would argue that to continue to be able to function at the Kindergarten level my brain normally does it has adopted the traits of file compression technology. In order to save a little space for name and facial recognition for my long suffering wife, not to mention car key placement memories and remembering which way is the front of my underwear (50/50 proposition at best these days) my brain has gone into disk space saving mode by compressing some data into ever smaller files to be stored and never recalled, like what my parents dressed me during most of the 70’s or why my dad always called me his “other son” at dinner parties. But I digress again.

Conversely my daughter is at an age where not only is she like the proverbial sponge, sucking and retaining information at a furious pace, she’s also using her brain to process and understand stuff. I explained that much of life doesn’t need to be understood — if you can reconcile the fact that, as my father, may he soon receive his medical marijuana prescription and a vape pen and not be scared to share it with my mother who needs it as much as he does, has keenly observed: people are stupid. When you’ve accepted that, you spend less time wondering how Donald Trump got the undeserved title “President” in front of his name.

But she, and her equally diligent and perceptive sister, persist in reading many books in a bid to learn and increase their horizons. While they are addicted to TV programs like all other people on the planet with an Internet connection, they still read a tremendous amount of books. Paper books at that. Not ebooks. They are surrounded by the printed word, and sop up stories and info like there’s no tomorrow. Honestly, the only way I could ingest that amount of info would be to literally suck the ink off the pages and then eat those pages as a shredded garnish on a salad. I can’t see it working with steak. And definitely not with ice cream. But I digress.

I really thought the skill of reading – in particular reading proper books given how it detracts from the time that could be spent in front of a screen that radiates images and most likely testicle-shrinking radiation – had died off. Heaven (or Amazon) knows I am not the most prodigious reader (car magazines notwithstanding), and I am a sucker for an animated show or a sports event (as a pretext for napping, of course). But it appears otherwise.

That’s kind of refreshing to see. Just hope I’ll remember this vomit of typed, incoherent thoughts twenty minutes after I publish it. Unlikely, since I forgot the password to log in to the system whose name I forget that allows me to publish this drivel.

I need coffee and a danish.
Johannes Not-So-Guttenberg Druker

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