Sunday, March 23, 2014

Limbic Brain Editorial

March 23, 2014

Dear Friends,

Recent research in the growing field of neurobiology (the work of David Siegel, Allan Schore, Bonnie Badenoch and others) leaves no doubt about the mystery, the power and complexity of the human brain. However, for wannabee poets and mystics, contemporary brain science exerts a distinctly dampening influence on “dramatic” interpretations of dreams, and, so to speak, pours a large bucket of very cold water on the human impulse to use dreams as omens, messages from other worlds, or “spiritual” guidance. Nevertheless, having acknowledged this in the interest of full disclosure, I continue to believe that dreams sometimes give us interesting data to think about. In this context (and nothing more) I want to share with you today a recent dream.

In my dream I was rushing frantically down the “D” concourse in some busy airport. I was accompanied by a nameless, faceless companion who, unseen, nevertheless stayed with me throughout my dream. (The fact that the context of the dream was the “D” concourse seemed very important—I do not know why.)

I was running, feeling sickly certain that I had already missed my scheduled flight, when an airport employee caught up with me and attempted to stop me.  This person said, “Taking this trip makes you miss your scheduled speech at the legislature. Don’t you understand?  The opportunity to address the legislature is a great honor, and you will not be asked again. You have lost the opportunity and all the potential for open doors that might have followed.”

As I continued running, another individual (a woman whose garb somehow suggested academic dress) caught up with me and said, “I had tentatively scheduled you for two important speeches, but I just want you to know that I will not be contacting you.”

I slowed my running somewhat, and tried to negotiate with the Academic Lady. I said, “I did not mean to be disrespectful. Can’t we discuss some possible options for the future?”

“No,” she said, with a malevolent smile, “You have shut the door yourself.”

Then came a blurred, shapeless space in the dream, and I awakened with one of those airport intercom voices saying, “All flights to Paris are now closed.”

Last week I wrote, “You cannot go back. It is life’s non-negotiable reality. But it is at the same time, life’s unavoidable opportunity.”

In some ways my dream can be considered an editorial comment by my limbic (emotional) brain on the conclusion my middle prefrontal cortex (cognitive) brain had so brusquely announced in last week’s blog.

In the dream my limbic brain agreed that we cannot go back, but insisted in noting as well that we cannot avoid the grief and real loss that accompanies this reality. Two things are true at the same time: yesterday’s choices inevitably foreclose some of tomorrow’s choices (the missed speech, the missed flight to Paris, and the missed tentative options for work); but it is also true that there are other flights on other concourses that I may yet take. The flight to Paris on Concourse D is not the only flight, nor is Paris the only place worth visiting. The people in the legislature, while important, are not the only people of worth who may be addressed.

Throughout the narrative of God’s story with His people, we hear God’s continuing hopeful insistence, “Behold, I do a new thing.”  Perhaps it is possible to enter (cognitively) into the hopeful reality of God’s presence in our tomorrows only when we have faced—and grieved (limbic brain business)—the losses in our yesterdays. 

Grateful with you today that grieving a lost flight to Paris need not result in permanent grounding; losing an opportunity to speak need not lead to voicelessness. Aware, however, that tomorrows hold greatest potential for those who come to life's challenges with both head and heart fully aware.

See you next week.


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