The secret life of brain

OK, OK! I know! It’s been more than a month! Here’s my new blog:

Imagine this: someone comes and offers you a pill. The pill will boost massively your brain to such an extent that you can learn a new language in a day; you can read and understand complex topics on art, literature and science; you will become extremely creative; you will be fearless; you will even come up even with financial formulas that can crack Wall Street and make you fabulously wealthy! But wait, there is a catch! Here’s the catch: The pill is experimental, it’s being made by some unauthorised lab, an underground kitchen, you don’t know its side-effects. What would you do? Would you take it? Before you carry on reading, write down your answer, “yes” or “no”!

This is how all starts on “Limitless”, a movie I bump into and watched, after being on call for 3 days straight, a few weeks ago. If you don’t want to miss episodes have a look at my previous blog where I left it (  The movie is  slick, fast and well shot. Bradley Cooper is convincing as Eddie Moora, a below average writer (don’t want to use the “L” word) with no accomplishment or ambitions before his life starts to transform after taking the designer drug NZT.  That’s the first role that Cooper shows that he can play with some depth. Robert De Niro plays Carl van Loon, a Wall Street billionaire who spots Eddie as a huge talent and wants him in his camp. Robert De Niro is an iconic actor, but somehow is not convincing as a Wall Street tycoon (comes across rather than a mafia boss) and in my opinion is swallowed by his role and his suit. Abbie Cornish, who looks like a young Charlize Theron plays (the on-and- off) Eddie’s girlfriend.

The script is based on the 2001 Alan Glynn’s novel “The dark fields”, a title borrowed from a F. Scott Fitzgerald’ passage from “the Great Gatsby”. I read the book after I saw the movie. The book is a rapid-fire techno thriller with many twists and turns, but unlike the movie, after a tremendous climax ends hopelessly flat.

The movie and the book got me thinking about the potential of the human brain. Somewhere in the movie says that we use only 20% of our brain. Of course, that’s not true, it is a common myth, we use 100% of our brain. What people meant to say is that we take advantage of only a very small potential of our brain. Take for example our muscles. We use all of them, all the time, but not to the full potential of our muscular system. Some people have aches and pains if they run hundred metres but their potential is to run the marathon, easily (!), or even more. Yes, that requires conditioning, theory, practice, technique, coaching, inspiration, hard work, support, role-modelling, rewards, ambition and time. That applies to both physical and intellectual sports.

The human brain operates in three levels: one, the largely mechanic conscious level that finds you a job, gets you money, gets you on your car/bus/tube to work, makes instant decisions for you based on your previous decisions and value systems you developed over the years, keeps you safe, fed and warm. Most people live their entire life on level one. Two, the vast subconscious level, hidden, dark, vague, powerful beyond imagination, the omnipotent ruler of the conscious mind. Your subconscious mind will push your limits, get you your dream job, give you the world record in 100 meters, make you climb Everest or equally convince you that you will never achieve anything worthwhile and keep you complacent and lock you in mediocrity. Three, the superconscious mind, a universal intelligence that governs all creatures, all suns and moons, seen and unseen. You can call this part however you like.

“We are the music-makers
and we the dreamers of dreams”
Arhtur O’ Shaughnessy, 1844-1881

Most of what we achieve with our intellect at a conscious level  is guided by our belief of what we can achieve, of what we perceive as possible for us to achieve, dictated by our subconscious mind. This is a fundamental principle. The concept of what we can realistically achieve is complex on the outside but has an extremely simple core. Influences can be traced as far as what the fifth-grade teacher told you once to what an acquaintance told you at a dinner party yesterday to what you’d best friend thinks of you. And of course what we think about ourselves. From all judgements we pass in life nothing is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves! A person will never achieve in life more than he or she thinks that is possible to achieve.

Of course, learning like Eddie Moora in “Limitless”, accumulating knowledge and memorizing facts does not necessarily translates to wisdom. You might be able to speak 5 or 10 languages but you might not be able to connect at a personal level with other people in any of them. And achieving your goals, again like Eddie, my not be the thing to wish for, if your goals were empty at the first place.

Looking at Eddie on-screen, before the pill, like a beaten up man, and after the pill (laser-focused, super energetic, creative and ambitious) you see the same exterior but two completely different personalities and two completely lives, like two different worlds and two parallel universes.

Eddie as a failed writer

Let’s play a game (!) a psychological game! Let’s assume that somewhere between the trillions of stars there is a parallel universe, there is another earth, let’s say pretty similar to the earth we know. Now imagine yourself, same appearance, height, eyes, IQ. But imagine a different version of yourself, you could be thinner, a lot thinner, or heavier, a lot heavier.

Eddie as a new man. De Niro on the left.

You could be toned and ripped, or have an extra tyre. Your hair could be short or long or blonde or dark. Your style might be completely different, if you wear suits imagine being scruffy, if you wear cheap jeans imagine wear designer clothes. Now let’s go one level deeper. I know it’s difficult but imagine doing a job very different to what you’re doing now, could be manual, could be tedious, could be very responsible or very prestigious. Imagine living in a different country, speaking a different language, having different habits. Let’s go a level deeper. Imagine your friends, your family, your colleagues. How your life would be, how would you talk, how would you behave, what your impact would be in the world.

Let’s go back to the movie, to the pill, the NZT. The human brain is a survival instrument. Its purpose is to protect your  live. Its not to make you happy or successful because that’s associated with a lot of risk, effort and (intermittent ) pain. Your brain wants too keep you warm and safe. That’s the bottom line of the bottom lines! But during the last million years something strange happened, the left frontal cortex started to develop. This has given a unique insight into ourselves and into our lives. A man wants to climb Everest. The part in his temporal lobe called amygdala kicks in and evokes fear “are you out of your mind? you will get killed and people will lough at you!” His amygdala is designed to save his life. But his left frontal lobe can override the amygdala. The man now says “I always wanted to climb Everst, I’ll do it or I’ll die”. This is against every single law of evolutionary biology. Whoa!

In any free society people can design their own lives and can work on themselves, constantly becoming better version of themselves. They have the inherent tools to design a better or even the best version of themselves. That is, provided, that people know what the best version of themselves is! Living automatically and mechanically does not help. This requires a high level of consciousness that happens sometimes in the life of people who actively look for it, what most religions and ancient philosophies call enlightenment. Unlike NZT it has no side effects!

Do you know what else helps the brain? Open horizons, seafront breeze, mountain tops, riverside forests, yes, a bit of travel. Hence some photos from a flash break in Southern France end of April. Three days, four cities, airplane, train, bus, walk. From Marseilles, with awesome old port (Vieux Port, photo) we took the fast (really fast!) train to Nice: street markets, pebble beach on Promenade Angails, trams, Marc Chagall and Matisse museums, street candle-liturgy on a Good Friday.

Marseille's old port on a warm evening. Do you smell the summer?

Nice’s promenade Sunday morning

Nice at dusk. You can just see the dome of the iconic Negresco hotel far right.

We started with a movie, let’s finish with one: Thor!!! Get your 3-D glasses and off you go!

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One Response to The secret life of brain

  1. s davies says:

    O true apothecary!
    Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

    (Romeo & Juliet – death scene)

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