Monday, May 26, 2008

A superhighway to nowhere

That's kind of an unfair title. If former neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor truly believes that she has achieved nirvana through a stroke affecting her left brain, then there is probably something to it. But I'm not sure that "superhighway to bliss," the title of the Sunday NYT article featuring her, is the best way to describe it either.

Let's assume that she's right. If you could achieve total bliss by blocking out what the article describes as "context, ego, time, [and] logic," would you want that?

There are to two working definitions of happiness in our lexicon today. One is the Buddhist-inspired "no learning state," where you don't aim to affect any change on the world but merely accept it as is. Dr. Taylor achieves this happiness by consciously rejecting bad (angry) thoughts and replacing them with happy ones.

The other type of happiness is flow. I personally feel it when I'm playing ping-pong or Halo 3, and sometimes when I'm reading/writing. It's awesome, but it's also dependent upon the formal reasoning (logic and time) that Dr. Taylor lost in her stroke.

Would you choose to eliminate these moments of flow in order to maximize your moment to moment emotional happiness? I myself would not, but given the support given to Dr. Taylor, it appears that Aldous Huxley may have been on to something all along.