My Brain Is Like a Fish Tank

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Another revelation from the Internet

I was doing the intensive research this column requires the other day, poking around the Internet looking for interesting headlines, interspersed by the occasional image search for female celebrities who are preoccupied with being photographed nearly naked, when I came upon this news flash:

 

YOUR BRAIN IS LIKE A FISH TANK

 

I couldn't help but take this personally. I have long wondered about the mysterious source of my consciousness, between bouts of attempting to extinguish it with copious amounts of fermented beverages. My brain works like everyone else's. It is capable of marvelous feats, like thinking of the perfect rejoinder ten minutes after it should have been uttered, remembering things I should have done exactly when it is too late to do them and coming up with old acquaintances' names a nanosecond after I have miffed them by having to ask who they are again.

 

I also know it is my brain's job to boss my other organs around. Without it my heart wouldn't know when to pump or my pancreas to pancreate. My brain does this without my conscious involvement, which is mostly convenient but sometimes not, as anyone who has ever done a significant number of beer bongs and then gone for a long subway ride will attest.

 

I am agnostic regarding the unconscious mind itself, however. Fashionable in the Freudian era, the concept of a whole separate part of my brain plotting its own way through life at cross-purposes to mine, a persona sealed beneath my consciousness, one that desires to do things that I have no interest in, like gardening or playing golf with John Boehner, does not strike me as likely.

 

Before I had the your-brain-is-like-a-fish-tank epiphany, I thought my brain was like a radio station, and I mean a radio station that played the same terrible songs over and over. This is because of my gray matter's fondness for earworms. I always seem to have one going on. For months on end last year it was Springsteen's "Born to Run." I have no idea why my brain chose that number. I don't think I've heard it outside of my skull in twenty years. For the holiday season, my brain switched over to "Christmas in Kilkarney." That's a fairly esoteric Christmas song. Probably my brain chose it as a defensive measure against the assault of songs about Rudolph and Frosty that afflicted me every time I went to the drugstore.

 

If I pick on my brain by treating it to some sleep deprivation or overconsumption of alcohol or a thoughtful combination of the two, my brain gets even by picking worse earworms. I know what it's like to spend a morning with my skull echoing with the tune:

 

Once upon a time there was an engineer 
Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear. 
He had an engine and he sure had fun 
He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run. 

 

You'd think that would be enough to make anyone quit drinking, but so far, not. With the revelation of the fish tank theory of consciousness, there's no reason to. My brain is exactly like a fish tank, and I mean like the fish tank I used to keep when I was a boy. Seldom cleaned and wildly overgrown, thoughts slip through it with a silvery elusiveness like fish through the greenish murk. Over-populating it causes previously treasured beliefs and emotions to expire and float upside-down on the surface. Incipient flashes of genius are devoured like newborn guppies by the larger, more argumentative inhabitants of worry and daily logistics. At the least disturbance, a brown cloud is released from the underlying gravel, enveloping the entire system in a tranquil blanket of smut. Over in the corner, a toy deep-sea diver coated with layers of general tank filth and bright green algae bubbles on and on.

 

That's probably my unconscious.

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