We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
What You’re Saying
They chant Kali Durge namo namah because, I said,
some things just sound better in Sanskrit.
I mean, you could chant it’s not about you get over it
but somehow that’s less melodic, you know, or is it that we call
it music when you can say what you mean without using the words
you mean? Creator, destroy me
being a bit blunt, a tad maudlin, the English would say,
and the bowing and beseeching part no one wants
to say out loud. You know? I said, knowing less and less
of you or what it was I was trying to explain,
when I had started in a dead language I don’t actually speak,
being stink alive and therefore prone
to changing and making things up.
The Brain Is Not the United States
The brain is not the United States, the brain is the ocean,
Dr. Yquem said, referring to its activity as opposed to its structure,
the brain is not the United States whose borders are mapped
and whose expansion is inhibited by bodies of water —
The brain is the ocean who is vast
and incorporates every chemical dumped into it,
whose depths we do not know, whose darkness we fear
in the most primordial way,
who stymies knowing up from down when one sinks fast into its long pull.
The brain is not the mind, try explaining this to a child,
that what is meant when we say I don't mind is not the same thing
as in make up your mind and that neither of them are the stuff in your skull.
I am trying hard to concentrate on the kind doctor’s research
but the statistics mean nothing, I don’t have a head for numbers
so maybe these distinctions are wasted on me,
which is not to say that my mind is made up but this is not my subject.
The brain is le cerveau in France, I’m France!
says the overacting imagination. I am not the United States.
The cerveau is also a walnut, you can see that,
a little crenellated universe in a nutshell,
it is a want, the brain, it is a salvo,
it is firing all the time in concert with other, louder artillery.
It is warning you
It is the nanny state
It is a slow gun that is nonetheless faster than we can see.
The brain is not the United Mind it is something more diversified.
But I cannot pledge allegiance to that because I am not the brain.
I am not a good citizen of any nation. The brain is the citizen of the body
and pays its taxes without much complaint.
But because I am France I am not interested in medication.
I believe in wine and unruly behavior and that etiquette
can and must be learned. It is a subject, like math.
It is not a subject of a royal kingdom. Rulers rarely care
what you say about them.
It is not the United States, it is not where you are from,
with its false meritocracy and aspirational wellness.
It is what you choose to do.
The brain is not the United States, it is the ocean
and we are everywhere on its shores,
never knowing it entirely.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
In his new book, philosopher William MacAskill implies that humanity’s long-term survival matters more than preventing short-term suffering and death. His arguments are shaky.
In her new book, Danish poet Olga Ravn writes with open love, pity, and compassion for her strange yet familiar creations.
Draconian individual punishment distracts from systemic change and reinforces the cruelest and most racist system of incarceration on the planet.