Note: This is a continuation of The Universe is Trying to Kill You (Part 1 of 2). The pieces are being posted almost simultaneously, and it makes sense to read the first part first.
A close encounter of a different sort. Earlier this weekend, Yair and I were hanging out with a friend (whom none of you know) in Arizona. Everything was totally normal until – without any notice – she began to seize. Within moments, the person we recognized disappeared as she started to shake, her arms and legs violently kicking while her face distorted into one that we did not know. Her teeth gritted hard against each other as she wheezed in and out, grasping for breath.
Thankfully, Yair and I have enough EMT friends that we sort of knew how to react and we helped to make sure that she was in a safe position, waiting with her until the ordeal was over and covering her afterwards to keep her warm. A few minutes later – after her body had calmed – I touched her arm and said “Hi, sweetie.” Her eyes jerked open and she looked confused. “You had a seizure, but everything is going to be okay. Do you know where you are?”
She didn’t know who I was, where we were or what had happened. She couldn’t add one and one, even when I gave her a multiple choice. (Does one and one equal two, or does it equal three?) But as I put a hand on her arm, I told her that I was someone who was going to take care of her. Though there was still confusion in her eyes and though she couldn’t quite speak yet, she somehow understood that I was there for her. She instinctively reached her right arm toward me like a child giving a parent a hug. There was a sweetness to it that I will never forget.
We knew that she was epileptic and didn’t need to go to the hospital, and we waited by her side for a half hour as she rested and her breathing returned to normal. Then we gently began calling her name again. She still didn’t know where she was or what had happened, but slowly it all came back to her.
Sparks flying around the brain had sent this mess of an uncontrollable message through our friend’s body. This moment did not just drive home the “life is fragile” message and how everything can change in one minute. It really got me thinking about our lives and the place of the neshama, the soul.
The brain is one of the only organs that we have not figured out how to transplant. If you can transplant a heart and retain personality, memories, love and everything else, then the person themselves must not be in the heart (even though colloquially and culturally we refer to our hearts as the center of our being). The person – their personality, their soul – must somehow be in the brain.
But there has to be more than the brain because even before her brain ‘came back’ and before she knew colors and numbers and people, she knew love and affection and what I like to think of as goodness. I think of the neshama almost as a shining light operating deep within the center of the brain. I almost think of the brain like this image from Men in Black where the little alien brain creature sits at the head and operates the body through remote controls. That would make us the most technologically advanced marionettes that I have ever seen.
Our bodies are vessels and only that, but their importance cannot be understated. We need our vessels, this shell of sorts, in order to operate and function in this world we’ve been given. Take care of your body because it’s the only one you have and – in this world – your brain and soul are nothing without someone or something to house them for you.
I’m obviously coming off of two quasi-traumatic experiences, but I am grateful for being alive today. I recognize that the complexity of the body and the universe working together at each moment to give us life is the blessing and miracle that we take most for granted every day.
posted by ayo