Lizard Brain

6 Apr


I was sitting at my desk this afternoon and I heard a strange sound. I looked out the window and I saw sleet pellets bouncing off of the AC unit outside my window. My, what lovely weather we are having for the 12th day of Spring. Seeing that sleet made me feel cold, and since I still had some firewood stacked up on the porch I decided to build a fire. Now, I can’t do any more work, I find myself sitting here quietly all alone just staring into the fire. Sometimes it does a man’s soul good to just stare into the fire and listen to the voices in the flames speak to the lizard brain. If you don’t understand what that means I don’t know if I can explain it to you but I will try. If you don’t understand it you certainly need to go out some evening in the boonies and camp and sit around a camp fire. You might think it strange, but you can take a group of rowdy and robust men and put them around a fire and watch the dynamic change throughout the evening. First, there will be lots of horseplay and laughing and joking around, but then as the evening progress a change will take place. Eventually all the men will become quiet and sit motionless, almost in a Zen like state of mediation, each of them staring into the fire, transfixed on listening to the voices in the flames. These voices speak to the lizard portion of the brain, or the amygdala in scientific terms. This is a part of your brain that does not engage in rational thought, it is part of your brain that is only concerned with self, and satisfying your primal needs. This is part of the brain that is primitive and unthinking, only concerned with survival. As civilized men, we have learned to suppress this part of our brain to some extent in order to survive and co-exist with other people. This is the part of your brain primarily concerned with sex and reproduction, fear, fighting or flight, and just basic survival. This is the part of the brain that takes over when you are fighting for your life or protecting your children. The lizard brain has a very simple logic, kill or be killed, eat or be eaten, survive or die. Each of us has a lizard brain but it is suppressed more in some of us than others. When you sit around the fire staring into the flames, that part of your brain remembers dormant memories from thousands of years ago while your ancestors were sitting around their own fires in the wilderness. I can imagine the picture in my mind, just as clearly as if I were actually sitting there. I see men sitting in a circle around a fire wearing animal skin clothing, clutching a spear in their hand, listening to the wolves howl in the night, circling around the camp just out of range of the light. I can see the women sitting inside the circle of men next to the fire, clutching babies to their breasts, hoping the firelight will keep the wolves at bay until morning. But through it all, our ancestors had the strength and determination to survive the danger and hardships. It is soothing and comforting to me to know this part of my brain is still alive and well and that I have it totally under control, but it is still there if I need to call upon it. So for now I just stare into the flames, listening to the voices, and remembering ancient memories.


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