We had my Son and family over for Easter dinner. Our grandson had just woke up from a nap and was a bit subdued for most of the visit. Being 8 months old takes a lot out of a guy and he really didn’t get going until just before they left. I had heard, somewhere, that the Grandparents’ job was to wind them up, spoil them rotten and send them home just before all hell breaks loose. It has worked out well so far.
While we were waiting for the Mrs to put the food on the table, my Son was telling me about some place he had stayed at that was haunted, and he could not spend the night there. I shook my head as he was telling me this, and had to nudge little Jr. off of chewing on my boot, and told him there are no such things as ghosts and haunts. He was adamant that yes, there were, so I proceeded to use science and logic to dissuade such a notion. I admitted that spooky things had been an interest of mine when I was young and stupid, but being scared of the dark does not a ghost make. He was incredulous, to say the least. Smart people who study brains say that our grey matter does a pretty good job of day to day life, but every now and then, a chemical imbalance or a knock to the noggin will derail the train of reality with freakish results. In addition, some physicists that have looked into how everything works, have made the conjecture that if you whip your head around fast enough, you just might see your perceived world assembling itself from out of the ether. I confessed to having tried that a few times and the jury is still out for that idea. It didn’t do my neck any good either.
Great Britain in the 1980’s did a bunch of research on the brain and what happens when it goes wrong. One of the stories that I read concerned a man that had a head injury of some kind. When he became conscious in the hospital, his wife of many years was in the room. He seemed fine in most respects, but when he looked at his wife, he only saw the lower half of her face. This being the 80’s and journalism being what it was and sadly still is, not a lot of factual information was forthcoming beyond that. Another chap in Jolly old England, smacked his head and after that could not recognize the woman he lived with. She was a total stranger to him. Now people, depending how closely they channel their inner rain man, can be that way without bouncing their head off walls, so maybe we’ll just put both of these examples down to irreconcilable differences and leave it at that.
I could see I was not making a lot of headway with my argument, so I decided to explain how the brain deals with real life examples that we have all encountered. Say you are working with an object and set it down without paying much attention to where you put it, cause you’re focused on what your doing. It’s in the same room, so it should be easy to locate again. Except, your mischievous thinking device has decided that you no longer need that object, because you put it down, and rewrites it out of your reality. It is still there, but you can’t see it. In your circling around the room, over and over again, looking for that thing you just put down, all the while the dude that actually runs the control room of you, is chuckling to itself. In utter frustration, you ask the wife to help you find that thing you just had, but lost. Once she understands what it is you want, she walks into the room, sees the object, picks it up and asks if this is what you lost. Suddenly, you can see it again while she walks out of the room, shaking her head. So, to summarize, the brain interprets how you see things according to some preconceived notions on what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. Most of us have a pretty rigid idea of what we expect to see out of life. However, when we see something that tries to put a square peg into a round hole, your mind drops into plan B and makes up something on the fly, and acts like this is the new normal, what’s the big deal.
My Kid, young and easily influenced, likes watching paranormal stuff, and seems to buy into all the goofy ideas. Because it’s all fun and hip to believe in ghosts and watch that kind of scary stuff, you’ve already set the stage for plan B and maybe even C. Your grey matter says you want ghosts, it can deliver ghosts. The Kid thinks he sees things that freak him out, and now it’s a done deal. Gullible and scared of the dark, is no way to go through life, Son.
I can see this is finally making a dent into his hard head. We have a bit more dialog on this subject and the food is finally on the table. We dig in. Little Jr. got to try some sweet potatoes and corn pudding, all of which he loved. The wife made a pie, and a couple of days previous, when she asked what type of pie to make, apple was mentioned, because we like it and she had some. She may have said something else about maybe this or that, but since we had talked about apple, I was sure it would be apple pie.
Well, the meal gets finished, Jr. was crawling under the table and biting ankles, and now my piece of apple pie gets set before me. It looks great, my wife really knows how to make a good pie. I take a bite and think, man, those apples are a bit tart, good, but tart. After the second bite, looked at the apple bits and this is the weird part. I looked at them and knew, somewhere in my head, that those weren’t apples but looked like rhubarb. But my head told me, no, them’s apples, buddy, just like you wanted. Oh well, got finished with the pie and the Mrs, fishing for life validation or something, asked if the pie was good. Me, being Honest Abe and all, mentioned that the pie was good as always, but those apples were a bit tart. She looked at me. My Son looked at me, heck I think Jr. and his mother stared at me. The wife clears her throat a bit and says “Um, that’s probably because those apples were rhubarb. Remember when we talked about this, we decided on rhubarb.” I said “No, we talked about apple and” she stopped me by shaking her head in that sad way when everybody realizes that you’ve gone round the bend. I paused a bit, cleared my throat, looked at my Son and told him, “I rest my case. Your brain can delude you into thinking whatever you want it to.” He nodded his head, and I don’t think he believes in ghosts anymore. Mom always told me that honesty was the best policy, but sometimes it’s best to keep your pie hole shut. I hear ya Mom.