The Brain: An Object Beyond the Reach of Metaphor
On the way out of her office, I noticed a framed photograph of Henry Molaison’s brain hanging on a wall. The photo was professionally shot and was taken in Jacopo Annese’s lab, after the various membranes that had cloaked it were removed, leaving it fully exposed. The photo showed the brain in profile, close up. It was pink, the pink of a ballerina’s slippers, though a complex network of dark purplish veins crisscrossed its surface.
There was something aquatic about it, like a creature you might encounter while diving too deep in a dark underwater cave.
Maybe the human brain is an object beyond the reach of metaphor, for the simple reason that it is the only object capable of creating metaphors to describe itself. There really is nothing else like it. The human brain creates the human mind, and then the human mind tries to understand the human brain, however long it takes and whatever the cost.
Excerpt from Luke Dittrich’s “Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets”; Published first in The New York Times Magazine, 2016; Photo by Spencer Lowell (@spencer_lowell)
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