Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scary, scary brain

Two (very short) stories.... Both involve the brain. Beware what is hidden in there.

My wife and I were recently in Germany. I knew that English would get us by just fine, but I was nevertheless interested in trying to kickstart my long-dormant German conversational skills. I was never a grammarian in German (which I find vaguely amusing because I am a card-carrying member of the "I think bad grammar makes you sound stupid" club in English) but my German conversational abilities were pretty boffo at one time. My high-school German teacher always stressed vocabulary and idiomatic turns of phrase over formal grammar, and so that is what I learned.

But high school was a very long time ago, and I don't think I actually learned anything in college German, so the vagaries of life's responsibilities being what they are, I hadn't thought a German thought in many years -- 27 of them to be exact. I was in Germany in 1979, 1980 and 1984. That's it.

So I bought a German-conversation CD set and put it on my iPod. That vaguely got the brain gears turning, but not to any extreme degree. I found myself striking out often when trying to remember a particular word.

It all changed on day three in Germany. It was as if a switch had been flipped and, suddenly, German words were pouring into my conscious from my subconscious. Really, it was crazy. As long as I didn't think too hard, conversation came easily. Idiomatic phrases were flowing like water. Long-dormant parts of the scary scary brain were activated.

It was fairly mindblowing. I got so damn excited about it that we will definitely be back to Deutschland in the near future. It also got me wondering what else is hidden in there. I mean this stuff was dead for 27 years, and, with just a day or two to ignite the brainy juices, I was rolling along like it was 1984, just with a better haircut.

Story two....

I was at yoga the other day -- a welcome once-a-week addition to my CrossFit life -- and I happened to exchange a quick "hey/welcome" glance with a new guy in the gym as I headed out the door. By the time I got to my car, I said to my wife, "Wait a minute.... Did you happen to hear that new guy's name?" She said she thought it was Chris, and my response was, "No fucking way.... I think I went to high school in Philly with that guy. I am going to go back in and see if that is him."

It is a bit unbelievable that I recognized him in that brief few seconds. I haven't seen this guy since, at best, about 1986, and I think it is actually a few years prior to that. He really doesn't look the same. Obviously, he looks older, but he is also significantly bigger/not the scrawny high-school kid I knew.

Which brings us back to the scary scary brain. I mean... What the hell? Something about that guy's face was still stored somewhere in my cerebral cortex that I recognized him in that sort of brief encounter?

Again, it makes you wonder what else is in there. So far, it's been pretty interesting of late rekindling the stagnant bits of el braino, but you have to wonder how many bad things are in there too, and how often are these memories *actually* triggered on a normal day and we just ignore them, or, more likely, they vaguely alter our approach/reaction to whatever is going on, and we don't even realize it.

Scary, scary brain.

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