Friday, September 17, 2010


A program on the radio a few months ago explained that my own brain may deceive me.
I was astonished.
Now I can't even trust my own brain.
I listened a little longer to discover that it's a survival thing. That's right. To help me with surviving, my brain will deceive me.

For instance, my brain may deceive me into remembering things in a way that makes me feel better.

OK, that explains why I sometimes remember that I won an argument with my wife, but what other pieces of my memory are "wrong." How else is my clever brain deceiving me for my own good?

Did my brain deceive me into thinking I could dance? Well, I had a lot of fun dancing, so I suppose that was OK.

Did my brain deceive me into thinking that a doughnut is really a healthy breakfast, especially if it's filled with custard?
 How can this deception be for my own good?  Maybe, the purpose of my brain deceiving me is just to make me feel good.

I know one time when I was about 19 and I wanted to learn how to swim, a friend of mine in the Army told me to hang on to the side of swimming pool and practice kicking to propel myself upward.
He said that after I have success using my feet to propel myself in the water, I should just go to the bottom of the pool and try to propel myself to the top with my hands and feet.
This sounded pretty easy to me so I tried it the next day at the big pool on the Army base.

It didn't take long and my brain was deceiving me into thinking that I was an ace at propelling myself in the water. That was a good feeling. I decided I was ready to try it from the bottom of the pool.

It didn't go well at all.

After a big MP friend of mine, who happened to be swimming there that afternoon, pulled me out, I asked him why he waited so long. "Couldn't you see I was drowning down there?"I sputtered.

"Actually," he said, "you really looked like you knew what you were doing. The way you were propelling yourself but not going anywhere--I thought it was a gag."

Apparently, my attempts at survival at the bottom of the pool had created a lasting, humorous image for him because he was still chuckling as I was spitting up water.

Somehow, I don't see how that bit of deception by my brain helped my survival. The short bit of "feeling good" about being able to propel myself could have put an end to me.

I must have this all wrong. Surely, my brain wouldn't try to kill me, but I'm thinking that I'll start being a little more skeptical about what my brain is telling me.

I can think of times I did things when I should've known better.
For example, did my brain deceive me into thinking it was OK to pick apples from the neighbor's tree when I was 10 years old because it was so far out in his pasture and the apples would just be wasted if someone didn't pick them?

Oh, oh, now this is starting to sound like the old excuse, "The Devil made me do it"?

And that, I can understand.

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