Sunday, May 17, 2015

When mind and brain get together

          Life began at 40 when I was in typing class. The goal was to finger a 40-words-a-minute rhythm, the minimum needed to pass the first semester. Years later I sat in front of my rugged Underwood, pounding out the succession of short takes expected from a reporter at the rewrite desk.

          Typing may have been the most useful class I took in public school. It was useful in English, history, journalism and drama classes, especially in doing homework, and it raised me from the fast index finger category to touch typing. I could look at my notes, and didn’t have to look at the keyboard. Thirteen was my lucky year.

          It was many years before multiple system atrophy started a different rhythm in those fingers. MSA lives and works in the brain, where it can twitch a finger away from an intended key, or turn feet loose to slide off a sidewalk or trip on the invisible. This is the same MSA that short circuits the brain’s wiring system and routes lots of thoughts to a dead letter orifice.

          Many of us who’ve been diagnosed with MSA, or who are caregivers, trade information with each other via email. This morning I began writing an email to a friend: I love BBC's offerings during the late night via Chicago's public broadcast station. They make

          What? What do they make? The word was suddenly misty, but I wrote down the first word that came to mind. Anchovy. It couldn’t be anchovy. It didn’t make sense. Another word popped up, amnesia. No, not amnesia. I worked at it, thinking about it, and that’s when the notion of “sleepless” came to mind. So I looked up sleepless in my Merriam-Webster and there it was: insomnia. I’d been trying to write this: I love BBC's offerings during the late night via Chicago's public broadcast station. They make insomnia almost desirable.

          You don’t need a brain disease for that. Anybody can forget a word now and then. MSA folks just do it more often, shooting mental blanks at a vanishing target.

          Nor do you need a brain warp to believe that there’s a reason for such things as MSA, beginning with the acquiescence of the Eternal,  James Moffatt’s favored name for God in his translation of the Bible. Maybe you prefer God, or Divine Mind or even Higher Power or something else that evokes the creative energy of loving, unseen parents. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to name God. Some never speak the holy name.

          No matter how deserved a punishment might be, sickness is not a punishment. If people were born so they can be tormented, with agents counterfeiting the ID of angels and a favored saint standing guard at the pearly gates of Guantanamo, the creator would need prayers for healing. We trust that human intelligence will lead to cures for MSA and other incurable diseases of this century, just as other cures have been celebrated in the past. The miracles come after mind and brain get together.  


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