In When Breath Becomes Air, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi tells the story of a patient who insisted on having a brain tumor removed against the advice of his surgeons.
The tumor was situated in a critical speech center in the brain. Excising it was likely to render the patient speechless for life.
Kalanithi was about to ask the attending physician why the surgery was proceeding when he received his answer. He met the patient.
The man dished out a “litany of profanity and exhortation” demanding that the doctors get “this thing out of my [expletive deleted] brain” (111).
At the operation’s conclusion, Kalanithi had a new question:”How was he still talking?”
He surmised that profanity “supposedly ran on a slightly different circuit from the rest of language. Perhaps the tumor had caused his brain to rewire somehow” (112).
Or perhaps his use of words rewired his brain.
Psychology Today asserts that just thinking about certain words can change our brains.
And one of the most fascinating developments in the understanding of our brains is that how we behave changes our brains.
Drug addiction also produces changes in our brains. And prolonged viewing of pornography makes the same kinds of changes that drug addiction fosters.
But changes in the brain aren’t just negative. Learning a new language as an adult “leads to better memory and sharper thinking.”
What we think about, what we say, what we do, and what happens to us–all of these elements reshape, rewire our brains.
Our brains become a physical manifestation of our lives–they are the evidence of how we live and what we experience.
Life, like our brains, is complicated. We are more than our genetics. We are more than the sum total of all we’ve said and done, all we’ve read, and all others have said and done to or for us.
It’s like a good painting being more than a combination of hues and light. A song being more than a collection of notes. And a poem being more than a set of words.
We are made to be Imago Dei.
And perhaps what we offer back to Him at the end of our lives is what shows on the most remarkable organ we possess.