Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I is other said Rimbaud, and why not add I is other is I, which leads me to the mirror neuron. The empathy neuron. This cell located deep in the brain, in the premotor cortex, the insula. Also found in a place I'd like to be right now (rain pounding all day) -- the superior temporal sulcus.
Smile and the whole world smiles too, but the rest of the song (cry and you cry alone) may not be accurate. As they probe, neuroscientists learn we're all lost in the looking glass when the mirror neuron fires. I look and imitate. You raise your hand to wave. I lift the soup spoon. Let's share a meal.
Such tree-like structures -- these neurons of pigeon and chick drawn by the great Spanish Nobel neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Did he find his way out?
I am musing on mirror neurons. Especially the delicate rendering by artist Judy Moonelis. I appropriate in language. My muse is about breaking and entering. "Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys," said Homer. "Tell me the causes, now, O Muse," writes Virgil as he opens The Aeneid, "how galled in her divine pride, and how sore at heart from her old wound."
Who do I invoke? Is it inspiration or simply the excitement of looking? A synapse fires. I'm obsessed. My mirror neurons tingle, awed by representations of cells. Wire and bead collaged in air, or branchings penciled on paper -- all such beautiful construction work. Everything rising, converging. And my small heart running to catch up.