Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Brains and surrendering on attention

So at the symphony on Friday — with the small Puffin making his debut in the back row, supported by a stack of bubble gum, cough sweets, and finally chewy mints — the teenage virtuoso (Ryu Goto) is interviewed before he takes to the stage. 18 yrs old, he casually describes how he’s studying physics and maths at Harvard. Ah, ha. I take his neurological measure from seat 148. Section 14. Music, maths, and physics yahoy. All nestling in the same neurological sun lounger. Je comprends.

Later I read that when musicians are playing they actually have brain activity in the language centre of their brains. I feel immediately cheated. So Mr Virtuoso has been bestowed the sun lounger in one lobe and gets to pole vault into the other lobe, as soon as he starts bowing. And while he’s bowing does he also have the instant ability to speak fluent Arabic or Amharic simultaneously? Not fair. Neurology = very unfair business.

I have observed there is a mini publishing industry dedicated to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It now occurs to me that it indicates we are actually not cut out for paying attention. Or perhaps we are creatures of selective attention paying and should release ourselves from this blessed hell of paying attention to so many multiple things and everyone just chose one or two each, with room for a bit of doubling up here and there. If it was evenly distributed it would work out very fairly. I feel confident that I could commit to pay attention to the act of hoovering and folding clothes after they are dry in the domestic realm, but nothing else. Never is one made more aware of this when one is parent to a small Puffin. The world decrees the Puffin must just learn how to do x, x and x. X usually involves dreary task like sitting on uncomfortable carpet, while taller person describes sides of a triangle. Under my system small Puffins would state two things they are willing to pay attention to and we’d just not worry too much about the rest. I cannot find much support for this thinking on an average Monday in rainy playground.

Finally, I have discovered two camps of brain books. The first are people who know the technicals on the brain, but if they veer into the direction of a simile force instant closing of reader’s eyes or closure of book  to prevent dizzy spell. Then there are the poetic types, whose similes do not jar the thorax quite so violently, but so dense is the waxing poetics, it’s really hard to find the lobe or cortex or neuron information through these mosquito nets of vervy description. Neither camp is exactly satisfying.

I did gather from one that anxiety and motivation may reside in the same part of the brain I cannot remember the name of and could face a bit of inter neuron argy bargy because anxiety could cancel your motivation. I wondered about athletes, if say you were anxious about next Saturday’s race would that then cancel your urge to get up this morning and run like a rabbit to prepare for it. Or does the general abundance of endorphins take care of it?

My next reading on the brain has the word endorphins in capitals in the title. I also realise my earlier assertion of the brain as heavy as a frozen chicken would cause plenty neck problems. Should be a frozen chicken in a state of thaw. A very petite poulet.

If you want a happy brain moment there are some excellent docs on youtube about Jacqueline du Pre. One is a collaboration on the Trout quintet. The other is a film from the 1960’s about her relationship with the Elgar concerto. London looks precisely like the picture on the front of JM Coetzee’s book Youth or rather London looks precisely as it did look to those trotting about in the Sixties. Like East Berlin or Czech looked in 1988 to those of us who weren’t.

du Pre and Elgar (there are 8 parts to this documentary they should pop up by the side of the first one once you watch it)

Trout Quintet. (There are at least 4-5 parts to this)

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