A chat with your brain

They used to say that talking to yourself was the first sign of madness. I don’t think it is. Lots of people talk to themselves, a few even audibly some of the time. In last Monday’s Daily Paradox I suggested liaising with your brain as though it was a close friend, one who needed some discipline and much love. From the many replies I have had to this thought I realise that lots of people are searching for a substitute to a religious faith that they might have professed some years ago.

Let me be clear that those with a good faith are very fortunate. But there are many who don’t have that asset. My suggestions about your relationship with your brain are for them – as well, of course, as for everyone. We all seek our own version of happiness. Sadly, many don’t achieve even a modicum of it. They know that they try, but they just seem to fail to reach a state of ‘comfort’.

In fact, trying to achieve happiness is guaranteed to fail. The effort will mostly be external. Happiness is internal. That doesn’t mean that it isolates itself from the world. It may keep a sensible distance from things that clutter the mind and the cupboards. It may even reject stimulants like alcohol though there is no reason for it to do so. But it will enjoy the world.

All it really has to reject is excess. When you reach moderation you reach happiness.

But moderation is a vague concept. It has to be applied to daily life if it is to be useful. Do we know how to do that? Not very well, I think. Our inability manifests itself most at the two ends of life – childhood and old age – but it is present all through our lives. When we are young we are exploring. That is something we will always do. We are naturally impatient to learn, to discover. We seek the formula to happiness. It may lead us down some strange pathways. If we are fortunate, mostly in the friends we have, we will steer away from dangerous and embrace useful.

Whether we like it or not, whether we cultivate and nurture it or not, old age is a reflective time. The things we achieved and the things we missed will remain very clear to us even as we may forget where we put the house key. Good kind thoughts are not enough for old age. The bones creak, we get pain, maybe serious illness. We need looking after as much mentally as physically.

The young often invent a character who is their friend. It may be a based on a favourite toy they have or it may be quite imaginary. It is very real. Similarly, in old age, we may attribute characteristics to a pet dog or cat that they clearly don’t have but that allow us to communicate, or at least think we are communicating, affection and companionship. In Japan they have robot pets that seem to do much the same thing too.

All these ways of making life less lonely for those who are by circumstance on their own much of the time are good. They fill a longing, satisfy a need, substitute reasonably well for the real thing. But the best place to invest our friendship is with our brain. Available 24/7, can be alert or drowsy, demanding or consoling, our brain is a companion more valuable than the greatest love.

When we take it on a little exercise that makes slightly more demand than reading the newspaper or watching television it rewards us with stunning ideas and new horizons. It encourages us to seek further. For example, if you read a little philosophy every other day, it will open your mind to possibilities you never thought of. This is true for everyone, especially the old.

A chat with your brain is simple and rewarding, and it shines a light on the future. Whether that future is short or infinity, thinking about it is a good way to meet the challenges it poses. They are not as much as the challenges you faced when young. Your ability to handle them is better than sixty years ago. The rewards of mulling them over are beautiful beyond description.

Because they make you realise how wonderful you are – because they show you how truly wonderful everyone else is.

When you see that you have achieved happiness.

All through a chat with your brain.

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