Episode 93

In part 5 of our mental health miniseries, we're talking about what makes us who we are. If our brain is the center of our personalities and identities, what happens when our brains get broken? Rachael tells us the curious story of Phineas Gage as well as her own experience with traumatic brain injury. Along the way, we will talk about split brains, manipulative microbiomes, and hungry ghosts. 

 

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produced by Zack Jackson
music by Zack Jackson and Barton Willis 

 

Transcript 

This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.

 

 

Zack Jackson  00:05

You are listening to the down the wormhole podcast exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion. This week our hosts are

 

Ian Binns  00:14

Ian Binns Associate Professor of elementary science education at UNC Charlotte, in my favorite brain character is crying from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

 

Zack Jackson  00:27

Zack Jackson UCC pastor in Reading Pennsylvania and my favorite cartoon brain character is the brain from Arthur

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  00:36

Kendra Holt-Moore, assistant professor of religion at Bethany College in Lindsborg Kansas. And my favorite brain is the brain in those comics, I think they're like from PhD comics or something, but it's like a brain and a heart that are always talking. And the hearts like, I'm gonna go catch a butterfly and the brains like no, we need to work.

 

Rachael Jackson  01:06

Rachael Jackson, Rabbi at Agoudas, Israel, congregation Hendersonville, North Carolina, and my favorite cartoon brain, brain from pink in the brain, especially their line. What are we going to do tonight? The same thing we do every night Pinky try to take over the world. I use that when anyone in my family asks, What are we going to do? Because it turns out, they never actually take over the world. And this is for all y'all that watch this TV show in the 1990s kids WV in

 

Zack Jackson  01:44

the late 1900s.

 

Rachael Jackson  01:48

So if you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure you can find it somewhere. But I haven't looked yet. So pinky in the brain is awesome, because they're going to take over the world. But they never end up taking over the world. Because, well, the laboratory mice. So why are we asking this question? Why did we want to talk about our favorite brain characters. And that's because today I want to start us by talking about our actual brains. As much as we might enjoy the comics are cartoons of brains and the way that we anthropomorphize and frankly, anthropomorphize them, they are just a part of our bodies, like every other part of our bodies, except not at all, like every other part of our bodies, because they can troll the rest of our bodies. And we might have this inclination to think that our brains have, again, like the rest of our bodies, oh, well, if something happens to it, you know, me, you put it in a cast, right, you break out, you break a bone, you set it, you get a scrape, or cut, you sew it up. But what happens when your brain matter gets damaged, it also can bruise, it also can shrink and get cuts, it also has the ability to suffer physical damage. And one of the biggest things that happens when that when the brain itself is damaged, is that our personalities can change. Our emotions can change, which is why I really love what Kendra brought in as her example, that it's the heart and the brain, these comics, that for so long in our American culture, the emotions are kept in the heart. And the rational thought is kept in the brain. But we really know that that's not at all true. The heart has no emotions, the heart pumps blood and receives blood and recycles blood like it's that's all it does. Not that that's an all like

 

Zack Jackson  04:11

if there's any hearts out there, listen kind of sorry.

 

Rachael Jackson  04:15

I apologize if I hurt your feelings heart. But hearts don't have feelings. Right? Our feelings are all in our brains. Our personalities are all in our brains. And we forget that. And I want to bring in one of the most famous medical stories, people that they really started to understand this. So this was 19th century or so mid 19th century, and prior to this point, they had no idea where our personalities really came from and how they were formed. There's a whole lot of well, the shape of your skull dictates How Your personality is? Well, that's weird. Case. In case that needs to be said. I mean, it's almost it's almost as backwards as The Little Mermaid cartoon, right? The show or the movie, excuse me, The Little Mermaid. And the seagull goes up to the prince. And they say, Is he alive? And what does he do? The Seagull puts the ear to the man's foot. Oh, yeah, he's right. It's like, what that's really, that's not how your body works. And we know that and we can laugh at that. Because that's how absurd it is. Well, a couple 100 years ago, they didn't know how our personalities worked at all. So by saying, Well, it's the shape of your head that dictates your personality. Okay? Why not? We have these ideas that maybe again, prior to this, and to this day, maybe it's when you were born, that dictates your personality, right? We all it for a lot of people. It's it's mostly used as a funny thing, and less deeply integrated into who they are like, what's your sign? Right? Well, I'm a Pisces, oh, well, if you're a Pisces, and these planets were rising, that means your personality is xy and z. And for some, there's a lot of truth in that. And for others, it's just a way of connecting and be like, Oh, that's when my birthday is to how fun that we still don't know exactly how our personality works unless you're in that field. So going back to the mid 19th century, there is a person who's named is Phineas Gage Pei, or, excuse me, pah is how you start his name, Phineas Gage. And he is, well, the typical youth of the 19th century blue collar worker. And he's working hard, working hard. And he finally says, I'm going to get a good job. And he gets a good job building the railroad. right way back when when we needed railroads to move us from one side to another part of the country. And so here he is a strapping man because frankly, in order to you know, lay railroad ties and put this stuff in, you have to be physically fit. And people around him, his friends and letters and stuff, his own notes, said, you know, had some fun, kind, reverence, upstanding, you know, still rapidly Strapping Young Lad. And so he gets promoted through the railroad. And now he's the manager, and he's, you know, like 2324 years old, and he's the manager of this railroad. And what they did back then is you don't just lay the railroad ties and, and hammer them in, you actually have to make space for the railroad, right, the ground has to be flat, the ground has to be ready. And if you're going over a mountain pass, or or a molehill or something, like you have to actually make the ground ready. And the way they did that is with explosives. So what they do is they basically dig a hole, and they put some gunpowder or TNT or something like that inside the hole, you know, a couple of meter or so down. And they pack it in. And they use a tamping iron to tap it in, right, basically, and this thing is usually four inches in diameter, and about a meter or three feet long, right? This is this is a big thing. This is not a small, small stick. So as the manager Phineas Gage is tamping this stuff in and because he was so well liked, he's talking his other people. His mouth is open, and it precisely at that moment with his mouth open, it goes off it this explosive explodes, and it's such a forceful explosion. And his mouth is open that the tamping iron goes through his mouth exits his skull and lands several dozen feet away Thank you, Zach. Yes,

 

Ian Binns  09:41

that's yeah, so I'm sorry. I just I know you're talking sorry. You're good. Yeah, that was the part that I kept trying to figure out so it did exit his called they did not have to take it out.

 

09:52

No, no, it exit it like okay, it was

 

Ian Binns  09:56

Did it get stuck in there and then yeah, okay.

 

Rachael Jackson  09:59

No, no which is great. Yeah, but it didn't get stuck in there. Yeah, and so we're gonna, of course, put pictures and Wikipedia pages and medical journals, we're gonna put stuff like that in our show notes. Tangential aside, parenthetical aside, if I can remember to send them to Zach, so hopefully there'll be there. Anyway, so it exits his skull, and pupa. And he's still alive, and he's still breathing. And he's still walking. And people are like, Oh, my God, what do we do? Literally, this guy's head, like, his skull blew off?

 

Zack Jackson  10:40

What do we do?

 

Rachael Jackson  10:42

And so they take him to to his doctor, right? This is your just, it's just your run of the mill PCP. I don't know about you guys. But I don't think my PCP could handle this. So he goes to his PCP and the guy goes, okay, okay. Let's keep him alive. So we keep them alive. And they recognize, well, there is no skull fragment, so they can't capture the bone, they can't put the bone back, and his brain starts to swell. And it bleeds and so that's their number one, that's their number one focus is to stop the bleeding. Right? Because if you just bleed to death, well, there's nothing else to do. So if you're really interested in the medical part of this, again, I'll link I'll link the journal article that talks about it. So on and on, he recovers it takes about six weeks for like for him to recover to the point where he can be awake, right? So this is a long recovery in being awake. Right? It's it's very much a traumatic injury. But it happened in his brain. And he wakes up, and he really starts physically getting better, right? His his blood supply has returned back to normal. He's able to sit and eat and converse. And what people notice is that he's mean, and he's vulgar. And he says irreverent things all the time. And they have no idea what happened. So Phineas Gage, changed. And the doctor noticed this, too. And one of the lines from the doctor's report says, He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at time and the grossest profanity, which was not his previous custom, manifesting but little deference for his fellows. This doesn't sound like the same person. And so they're really trying to figure out what happens. And so Phineas Gage to end his story that is, Phineas Gage lives for another decade, decade and a half. And at one point, he goes to Chile as a long haul, or long distance stagecoach. And the long distance stagecoach, according to their job description required the driver to be reliable, resourceful, and possess great endurance. And above all, they had to have the kind of personality that enabled them to get on well with their passengers. Fascinating, also, not a job Island. No 19th century drive in the hills long distance of Chile. Hmm. So this was a job that he took. And then he started to feel ill and he went back to live with his mom who was at that point living in San Francisco, and he started to have major seizures. And he died before he was about 40. So sort of ends his life. His life story that is, but I bring this bring this stage coach piece, because that doesn't quite match what his doctor wrote that he was irreverent and spewing profanities. And remember, this is at a time in our American puritanical society that was like, oh, no, we can't say profanities. That's only for the bad people. We've changed our culture since then.

 

Zack Jackson  14:23

Yeah. That least Whoa. This is Kellyanne.

 

Ian Binns  14:31

You can bleep that out. Right? Don't Don't take it out, believe it, because I think it's perfect timing. Sounds good. Thank you.

 

Rachael Jackson  14:40

So here we have a person who has changed. And the best understanding at that point was that his brain injury caused him to be a different person. And we now recognize that our medical science that that is completely true. that our personalities reside in the mush that is contained in our skulls. And if something happens to that mush, it's very soft material, if something happens to it, it can affect who we are. And that can be quite disturbing. And like as not even for a person going through it, but can you imagine, I can just say to you, right, I can say to Kendra, Kendra, you don't, you're not who you think you are. And that at any moment, if I cut off a slide of your slice of your brain, you're going to be a different person. And that kind of shakes our foundation of one of the things that we believe in our life to be in to be permanent, right, so much of our life is filled with impermanence, that we think well, at least who I am, unless I willingly change it unless I have the control to change who I am. And that control is part of my personality. Then it then I am who I am. And, and it goes, this is showing that it's not. And that can be disconcerting, especially when there are so very many medical diseases and challenges that affect the brain throughout life. One of the most common ones that we see in our society is dementia. Not just Alzheimer's, but dementia as a whole category of different of different illnesses that affect the brain. And I highly suggest if there's anyone in your family, if there's anyone that you work with, if these are patients that you care for, if you somehow engage with anyone that is in the population of those who have dementia, there's this book called the gems and the gems and dementia, a guidebook for care partners. And what it does is it walks a person through stages of dementia, and rest six stages of dementia. And it helps them recognize helps us recognize what a person might be going through, I'm not going to read you all six of them. But the titles are sapphire, diamond, emerald, Amber, Ruby, and ending with pearl. And what happens is in each of these different places, so let me let me read one of these to you. And this is the diamond, this is the second stage. And it sort of says cognitive characteristics. A person gets rigid, but does the best and does best with established routines and rituals can really do well at times, they can shine. And so it seems planned or on purpose. They can be hurtful or say mean things without seeming to notice or care. They talk and worry a lot about cost money and expenses. Different people will see them differently. Like we do diamonds and different facets, they can't seem to get it at times or won't let it go. Some family members are not sure if it's dementia versus just being mean stubborn, and forgetful. Dementia is really a brain disease. It's something that physically affects the physical mush of the brain. Now, I'm not a neuroscientist, I'm not a neuro surgeon. I'm not, I don't even play one on TV. So I cannot explain what's happening in those. But I trust those that do know what they're talking about. So I'm going to pause here and see if there's questions or reactions to the story and what I've just shared and then I'll move us into a slightly different direction.

 

Ian Binns  19:23

So I've always found that, you know, prior to you sharing the link for that story, Phineas Gage you know, I've read it somewhere else before and was just so fascinated by it for multiple reasons. Obviously, the fact that he survived for so light, right? I mean, it's like, holy, sorry, there we go again. Good things not 1850s Right. So but uh, the other thing too is, you know, how much that accident advanced doctors at the time advanced their own understandings of the brain and led to like the development of different types of medical fields and scientific fields because of that accident. Okay, I just find that so fascinating. And, yeah, again, it's just it's, it's just insane to me that he survived that, and then what they're able to do with it?

 

Rachael Jackson  20:22

No, thank you for that. I mean, and I love that you said that it that they learned from that this story. It happened in the 19th century is still in modern day textbooks and modern day classes. So my dad went to medical school starting in what year was that? 1998. And he learned a Phineas Gage in medical school. Right. I mean, there's, there's a reason that this person is so well known because of how he changed the understanding of what our brains are and what our personalities are. I hope I didn't cut you off there. Yeah.

 

Ian Binns  21:02

No, not at all. It's again, it's just, it's really interesting. You know, that again, he survived what, how at advanced the medical community in the medical field. And then yesterday, when in preparing for today's recording, looking at some of the notes and things like that, that were written by the doctors, you know, that we have those those notes in their description of what was going on in the brain. You know, what they were able to witness of, like, some of these descriptions, or was it of like, you know, parts of brain matter coming out of the top of his head and stuff. I'm sitting there like, oh, my gosh, like Jess, who? That was, I was cringing while Reading it. It just like that just now I see why not doctor? medical doctor. Dr. Binns? That's right, that's right. Yeah,

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  22:02

the thing that this story of Phineas Gage, and just the conversation about, like brain injury and personality, it reminds me of something that I learned, I think I learned about this when I was maybe at the end of my master's degree, or like, early PhD student and I went to some conference, but I, it was like, a conversation about the microbiome. And it was one of the first times or maybe the first time that I had heard someone talk about how there are neurons in our stomachs. And so it just is always really interesting, when, like, we talk about, like this topic of, it's really like a question about, you know, Who Who are we and, you know, how much do we are we sort of prone to just like, the impermanence of whatever happens to our bodies changes our experience of the world, but we like, have this idea of self, that, at least in like, a lot of cultures is, you know, in the brain, and for other people, it's maybe more in the heart, but there's also the gut, or like that, that, you know, we talk about, like our gut telling us what to do, or, you know, the, that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something is, you know, happening that you are unsure about, like, it's just, it's this other part of our physical experience that, you know, is also an option for how we like identify, like, the core of our self. And that's really interesting. And also just interesting to, like, bring in, I think, the, like medical, there's, I mean, I'm not a biologist, but I love like listening to and talking about the microbiome and that, like, just our relationship to our bodies, is not just a relationship to a body, its relationship to like, these, like millions of teeny tiny little things like micro organisms that help make up our body. And it's, you know, there's a plurality built into ourselves that we're not always like, aware of, but like, what does that mean in terms of selfhood, and personhood and personality and the way that we relate to people and love people and, you know, show respect and all these other like bigger questions about personhood, and they just become more interesting questions when you consider, like, the complexity of like the body itself, whether we're talking about the brain or, you know, those neurons in our guts, our gut brain, it's all just really cool. You know,

 

Zack Jackson  24:57

that's why it's so hard to give up junk food. is when you have eaten a lot of junk food you have selectively bred in microbiome that that thrives off of that junk food. And that mic, those little microbes, then release chemicals into your blood, which tells your brain to get more of that junk food. And so your microbiome wants a certain kind of food, which you have selectively bred by your choices, and then your cravings, that you think this is my favorite food, because I love it. But it's really your favorite food, because all of the microorganisms that live in your belly love it, and you're just its host. And it's, it's telling you, they're telling you what you think that you actually like, but it's really just them.

 

Rachael Jackson  25:42

But you're the ones that did selectively put them there, maybe they're the brains, you have the ability to change, or maybe they were always there. Right. And so maybe some people don't have

 

Zack Jackson  25:52

much of your microbiome, from their mother, during the birthing process, when you are a blank slate, and those microbes can get in there and set up shop. And then yeah, you can you can take swabs of people, and you can tell who their mother is by the specific fingerprint of the microbiome we got. Yeah, it's crazy to think that we are, in many ways, like a mech suit for a whole host of, of microbes, more so than we are an independent person that just so happens to have a bunch of microbes that eat our food. Now, we are a universe in and of ourselves. I like that.

 

Rachael Jackson  26:34

We tend to be so narcissistic into thinking that we are who we are. And we have complete control over this body that we inhabit. When the reality is far more complex than that. Right? Like you were just saying, right? How much control do we have over these things in our gut, especially when they're really imprinted? Like fingerprints, right? When they're imprinted in such a way that we can identify family lineage, right, which you have very little control over who your parents are. In fact, you have zero control over who your parents are. But we but we have this, this deep need to know that. And one of the hard parts is if we have that need for ourselves, do we not also have this need for other people in our lives? When we meet with a person, we go, Oh, I really like this person, we can be friends. And then you become friends. And then that person changes. Are you still friends with them? Does it matter how or why they changed if it was by choice or by happenstance? So I want to share a slightly personal story with us. In I'm actually forgetting what year this was. It must have been 2008. to that. Yeah, I think it was 2008 Is that the election was 2008. And Obama took office in January of oh nine. So this happened Christmas Day. 2008. So I'm 27. I'm 27 years old. And I just go up on a ski hill. I've skied before, but it's not a hobby, right? It's just something like, Oh, I've done it once or twice. I know, you know, I know that. If you want to slow down, you make a wedge. And if you want to speed up, you put your feet together and you know, go side to side. Cute little things like that. I wasn't being ridiculous. I was just staying on the green slopes. I was I was with my best friend at the time, who later became my husband. And I go on my second green run and I'm with his mom, and all the guys are off doing like black diamonds and something like Oh my God, I don't even know how people can do that. And my second run, it's Christmas time, and I fall. And I don't just like oops, hee hee hee. I fell on my tokus wasn't that funny? I'm a little embarrassed. i fall i garage sale, I fall down the mountain and the everything's on the yard, right? That sort of concept of the garage sale, like everything in my pockets. Like everything is off. Now, I knew I was going to do a green. So I didn't wear a helmet. Was that smart? I don't know. Maybe? I don't know. They didn't. This was again 2008. This was up in Colorado. They didn't necessarily offer how much to people that are just having this cute little fun time on a green slope. I don't know what to tell the person you just really have to ask a person that knows how to ski from now on like it's my suggestion that you wear a helmet because why not? You wear a helmet when you ride a bike and you go just As fast on skis as you do a bike, so that's my suggestion. I was not wearing one and I didn't even occur to me that I should have been wearing when one of my skis did not pop off like they are supposed to. And it just like twisted my leg as it was, as I was literally falling down the mountain. And so it stayed on and I had this massively strained and sprained ankle, so I couldn't walk. But as I'm falling, and I, I have this very distinct moment, where here a crack, like an actual crack, and then I, I'm laying there, and it's a beautiful day, so I'm laying in the snow looking at this blue sky, bright light. And, and I run my tongue around my teeth, because I thought the crack was my teeth breaking. And I was really scared that I was like, Oh, my God, teeth are so expensive, kid you not. That's what my thought was. Yeah, I was like, I broke my teeth and teeth are expensive. didn't occur to me, that I broke my brain didn't occur to me that I broke my neck did not occur to me. And then I was stupid. Because I was not thinking, like, I literally wasn't thinking and I was stupid. And I said, Sure, I can go on another run. And I somehow work through the pain of my ankle, went down the mountain, got back up on the chairlift started down again. And then I went, I'm getting dizzy, I think I need to lay down. And I just lay down in the snow. And my eyes were doing this weird thing. And it's like I couldn't see and they were just going so fast. This is a stress story. Imagine living it

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  31:58

gone, don't worry. Yeah, that's what's helping you live.

 

Ian Binns  32:04

So I live

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  32:06

spoiler alert, I

 

Rachael Jackson  32:06

don't die. And then then they call the rescue, right? They call the rescue the ski squad or whatever they're called. Because I still am in the middle of the mountain and I have to get down. And they take me to like a little cab out and they have a heart or something. And they brace my neck and they put me on a stretcher, so they can take me down. And I'm only told this I don't remember this. At this point, I have completely lost the ability of consciousness. I am a conscious, but I don't actually know that I'm conscious at this point. And so these guys are strapping me into the board. And I asked one of them for a kiss. Is everything okay? I was like, Well, you could you could kiss me. Like, okay, oh, glad to know that I said that. I've never been that forward in my life. So interesting that I would have chosen that ailment. Yeah. And then I'm taken down the ski, I'm taken down the ski hill, and they do a quick X ray and they go, Yeah, you're broken, like we can't fix you. And so they have to send me to a large hospital, which is about an hour away. And so they take me to the large hospital. And they see that I've broken part of my CFR and I have a severe concussion and they keep me in the hospital for about a week. And then I go home, and I can't walk because of my leg, my ankle. And I can't turn my head because of my my neck issue. And far more distressing, was I can't think I couldn't think. And one of the exercises that I was told to do that an occupational therapist or I was someone like that I had so many different therapists, physical, occupational and speech. And I can't remember exactly who told me this. But my task was to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Mind you, I am 27 almost 28 years old. I am a chemist. I know I've lived alone like a grilled cheese sandwich. Are you kidding me? Turns out, I couldn't. I couldn't make a grilled cheese sandwich. I didn't know the order to put Oh right. You got to butter the bread. And you have to put the butter side down and you have to get out the right pan and then you put the cheese on and you have to flip it and I didn't know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. And I sat my pantry and cried. There was one time when I didn't have a walk in pantry. I just had like a large like it was a bifold door that then had three shelves on either side so you could walk I guess it's a walk But like you couldn't turn around, really. And I walked in, and I couldn't find my way out.

 

35:06

I didn't know how to get out of my battery that literally, like, that made no sense.

 

Rachael Jackson  35:13

And I lost the ability to really understand math, I lost the ability to know how to play the piano. I learned Hebrew the year before, couldn't recognize a single letter after this. And to this day, language is still extremely hard for me. Now, people that know me now would have no idea that I had this. People that knew me then would go, Wow, you're really different. I have high I have extremely heightened anxiety that I never had before. Like ever. I was not an anxious person, I was a stubborn, I was shy, I was lots of other things. But I wasn't anxious. And now I have, I have quite a diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder. And so this, this Phineas Gage story really resonates with me. And I think one of the things that we as people who are with others, and this for me is where I bring in the religious piece to so many of us have religious communities, that when we're in them, we may not know why a person has changed. And it's our obligation. And I mean that word intentionally, to care for them. We don't have to be their best friends, we don't have to, to be there those ways. And if someone is abusing you, verbally abusing you, you don't have to stay in that situation. Right? Because people can get very mean, I definitely had a mean streak. While my brain was trying to figure itself out. One of my therapists called it, I had to defrag my brain. And I love that like computers. So I just defrag my brain. And then I got much better and so took about a year before before I became who I am now, but who I am now is different than who I was. So I just want to add that to our to our story. And I'm not a unique case, and I am 100% Lucky. Right? It is a it's a scary situation. And frankly, I still went to rabbinical school after that fact. So I my traumatic brain injury had a had a happy ending. Very much so. But not everyone's does. And so I think if we share our compassion and recognize this idea of myths, LM Elohim that we're all made in the image of God. And I don't believe in a God that is static. I believe in a God that is dynamic. So too, are we dynamic. So questions, reactions, etc.

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  38:14

I think my reaction is just a fish. Again, agape facial expression. And glad that you're with us, Rachel, that's crazy, too.

 

Zack Jackson  38:31

It reminds me of the split brain surgeries. Have you heard of these? Yes, yeah, we don't do these anymore. And so there's, there's only a small amount of research done into it. We're basically for a period of time. Some doctors were treating people with recurring seizures that were just really bad. They were treating them by severing through the corpus callosum, which is the connecting point between the two hemispheres of the brain. And it seemed to really work. Now that's, that's significant brain damage, is what that is, but it stopped the seizures and increased the quality of life. And then what they found the some of the people who had this done, started to act very strangely, in that the two halves of their bodies were not acting together anymore. Yeah. And so there were stories of like, a guy would reach into his into his closet to pick something out and his other hand would pick something else out. There was one, one guy where like, one hand was, would like hit him, while the other one had to like restrain it. There was, I think, my favorite case and this is so they're starting to see that the it seemed almost like for some people. There were two different personalities in their brain now that we're at work. Before they were working together, now they were working separately trying to control the body at the same time. But the left hemisphere of the brain is where most of your language centers are localized. And so the right hemisphere of your brain is effectively mute, and is unable to speak, but is able to have different thoughts. And but it can't speak anymore. And so there was one person who they refer to as P S. And they were able to using scrabble tiles, and moving them around with each different hand, and like blocking, putting something in between their eyes so that they can't see what the other hand is doing. And only one eye can see one and one can see the other real, confusing, convoluted thing. They asked this person who are you, and both hands spelled out, Paul. And then they asked him, What is your desired occupation and the left hand, which, which would be controlled by the right part of the brain, the more artistic impulsive side or whatever, spelled out racecar driver. And the other hand, which was controlled by the more rational one spelled out draughtsmen, which is a much more down to earth sort of occupation, right. And it was like, there were two different ambitions, two different brains, there was one that was more rational and down to earth, and there was one that was more impulsive and excited, and their ability to communicate with each other was severed, but in some ways, it gave the right brain some more freedom to interact, because now it wasn't, it could communicate now, without being overpowered by the left side of the brain. And, again, we don't do this anymore. So we only have this like, select number of patients. But it seems like maybe we are not the unified to being that we imagine ourselves to be. That even within our own brain, there is a multitude of consciousnesses that are in concert that are that are, you know, creating a sort of Mosaic personality. But that are not the same. And I think about, about in, like Rome, in Romans, the book of Romans, Paul says, I always I seem to always do what I don't want to do, and the things that I want to do, for some reason I can't do. And I am always at war with myself. And I think we can all kind of relate to this feeling of like, I have these higher ideals. And for some reason, I cannot do them. And I always seem to revert down to this other thing that I don't want to do. And like how would that conversation about our personality, our spirituality, our higher ideals or morality change, if we imagined ourselves not as, like one person being, you know, impacted from without, as much as it is multiple persons, within ourselves a multitude of people who are working in concert together to make what we feel is the best decision for our collective selves. If we start to see ourselves as a universe instead of as an individual, like, what, what kind of a difference would that make for how much grace we're willing to give ourselves or complexity we're willing to offer to others?

 

Rachael Jackson  43:28

That's beautiful. I just finished Reading. So I'm sort of listening to what you're saying there, Zach. I just finished Reading a book called When Breath Becomes Air Are any of you familiar with Yes? So it's Paul calling our colony the colony Yeah, certainly colony, the colony, k a la a nit Hi, When Breath Becomes Air. It is a hard read. It came out just about six years ago, January of 16. A by an autobiography of a neuro surgeon who develops metastatic lung cancer, I'm not spoiling anything. He tells you that in the first chapter one of his lines that has stuck with me the whole book is like if you if you highlight in your books, and you're like oh, I just want to highlight really powerful and important passages your highlighting this whole book was he was doing a brain surgery on a person that's awake, right and that's necessary so that you know what's happening. Is that amazing that we have all these surgeries, right? We have all of these surgeries are like put me deep asleep. And these ones, they want to make sure you're awake, because they're going into your brain and they'll change and one time he's telling the story where he He's doing something, he puts some sort of thin electrode in. And the person says, I'm sad. I'm so sad. And then Paul takes it out politics electrode out, and the person goes, Oh, that's better. And so he does it again, because this is right around the area of a tumor or something like he needs to be in this area for reason. He wasn't just being like, Hey, what's this do to be in this area,

 

Ian Binns  45:28

we should be interested. Right, just like poking it with a stick, and

 

Rachael Jackson  45:33

he goes, and then the patient again goes, everything is just so sad. And then he pulls back a millimeter, a millimeter, I sick. I'm no longer sad, right? That's how fragile and that's, that's where we give people so much grace, a millimeter, right? Tiny little percentage, no room for air. So if you get jostled, perhaps that millimeter got shaken up. And that's why you're really sad today. And the world feels like it's really sad today. That we have this ability to give people grace. And I think that's one of the best things that we can give them, compassion or humbleness, right, that we can not even understand where they're coming from, but just understand that, that they're going through something, whatever it might be, and then we can be there for them. I don't have a I don't have a nice little bow.

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  46:38

That story that that book though is like, it is amazing. I around the room Reading it crying by myself. Basically,

 

Rachael Jackson  46:50

I just bought it. Yeah, if you need a cry, like almost as a cry if you need to think about death. And think about what is your purpose in life? What is the value of living and what is not to be scared about death? I'm it's just, it's an incredible book. Absolutely incredible. And then his wife wrote sort of an afterword a couple of chapters to sort of sum up like from her perspective and to finish it because he wasn't able to finish it because he died. Again, not a spoiler.

 

Ian Binns  47:23

Yeah. Well, like the book cover said that like when I was boiling Okay.

 

Rachael Jackson  47:35

Unlike my story, he doesn't he does not live.

 

Zack Jackson  47:40

We are remarkably fragile creatures.

 

Rachael Jackson  47:43

remark. Yep. So we've talked a lot about life and where that can take us and the fragility of it. So I think that that's wonderful and a good a good place to pause our conversation and if anyone has stories that they want to share with us, please feel free to do so. But I think we are at the moment where we can have our down the wormhole minute and today or this week is Kendra

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  48:20

so I haven't decided what I want the theme music to be for the segment yet, but I might workshop a couple ideas. Right now. I want it to be something like Welcome to the segment on residents of hell. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I mean, like some electric guitar.

 

Zack Jackson  48:44

It will be so much better if instead of electric guitar you just did it with your mouth

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  48:57

yeah, that's, that's kind of where I am right now. But I also want to figure out a way to blend the drone earner and earner of electric guitar with like, needy, needy like ukulele sounds. I just think those things together can really express you know, the sentiment of hell. So Well, we'll see. Yeah, so welcome to the first segment of residence, pal. I just wanted to do that again. And so today, the first Resident of hell that we're going to talk about are the hungry ghosts. And if you've never heard of the hungry ghosts, hungry ghosts, come out of the Buddhist tradition, and are particularly popular in Chinese Buddhism and are present in a few other East Asian countries where Buddhism is popular, but I think Chinese Buddhism is kind Have the main Buddhist tradition that people kind of associate with hungry ghosts and to kind of paint a picture of what a hungry ghost looks like. Because they have a very distinct presentation, they are these beings with large distended bellies, that they're always hungry. Hence, you know, it's kind of implied in the name. But they have distended bellies that are, you know, always ravenous with hunger, but they have, like long, very skinny, skinny throats. And whenever hungry, goes, try to eat food, the food, basically like turns to fire in their mouths and in their throat. So it's very painful, to try to eat food to, you know, satisfy the hunger in their large, empty stomachs. And their throats are also so skinny and small that like they can't really eat that much. And so it's they, the Hungry Ghosts, like the image of a hungry ghost is kind of like this embodiment of desire and greed. And there are a lot of different ways that you might become a hungry ghost. So that's the other thing to kind of point out is that hungry ghosts is like a possible reincarnation for, for a human, depending on your karma. So in Buddhism, there's another image that I can try to kind of paint for you, that's the Buddhist wheel of life. And there are upper realms that are more the heavenly realms, and there are lower realms, more the hellish realms, there is a distinct hell realm. And hungry ghosts actually have their own realm and they're on the visual of the Buddhist wheel of life, hungry ghosts are adjacent to the hell realm. So they're one of the lower realms and like, you don't want to be reincarnated into the Hungry Ghost Realm. But you might be reincarnated as a hungry ghost if you lived a life that was just full of greed and desire and over attachment to worldly things. Because, you know, if you're unfamiliar with Buddhism, then it's worth mentioning that in Buddhism, attachment is like a big no, no, like, you want to try to live a life in which you are not attached to, to worldly things, and you recognize that everything changes and it is marked by impermanence. And when you become attached to anything that leads to suffering. And so you're trying to kind of alleviate suffering by these practices of non attachment. So hungry ghosts are kind of a like if you become a hungry ghost, then you didn't do a very good job of being unattached. And every year during the ghost Festival, which happens in the seventh month of the lunar calendar this year, it happened like mid August, people the the lower realm the hellish realms kind of open up and hungry ghosts can roam, roam the earth here with humans and people are able to feed the hungry ghosts during the ghost festival to kind of alleviate their suffering. And so people will burn money and food like paper money and paper, food and paper kind of like luxury items to you know, appease the suffering of these beings as they wander the earth on a during the time of the ghost festival. So that is the Hungry Ghost

 

53:59

when I'm just hungry

 

Zack Jackson  54:05

I can relate. Hungry Hungry Ghosts

 

Kendra Holt-Moore  54:08

are done or not. You have just listened to the first residents of hill. Thanks for joining me didi.

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