Book Review by the Vagus nerve: Basics of how and what.
I am an agnostic about religion and reading. I try to read everything my mind needs. Long serious scientific books and at times trivial historical adventure novels. They both are food for my brain. By having a broad reading range and non-snobbish attitude to books, I can be an adventurer in the land of books. But mostly I am an adventurer in the land of minds. The minds of writers, readers and the society that create such books. Unfortunately, I have limited physical time so I have to follow some kind of ‘reading travel plan’ to move forward. Every minute millions of neuronal pathways change and vital cells are reborn. It is comforting that due to this physical reality, no reading experience can ever be the same again. I sometimes read a book several times because it is always partly new to my mind.
Precious wisdoms and interesting texts can be found anywhere and I try not to limit my reading because of pre-set presumptions of the subject, writer or the frontpage of a book. Both bestsellers and derelict never-read old books interests me. They do it because I usually never know if I, at that given time, can find something precious in them. Reading for me is like going metal-detector treasure hunting with my eyes. Sometimes I find a diamond in a big pile of manure and sometimes I cannot find anything worth keeping in a well-known treasure trove. Yesterday, my wife and I strolled through Tiffanys but now I cannot remember how a any single ring looked like. There was too much glittering so my brain got a ‘diamond-overload’. Sometimes I find a sentence with perfect sound and philosophy in a trashy Harrison Fordish adventure book. Reading for me is often not about the book or even the content as a whole – it is about the interaction between the book and my state of my mind at that precise moment when my sensory organs and brain register the letters, sentences and flow of pages. Is it sensible? But most importantly how does it feel? Why does it feel like it feels? How does it fit my previous feelings?
As you by now can notice, I very much like to be the observer of my brain. This is a habit that I picked up after starting doing Vipassana meditation ten years ago. It is like being two readers. One on each shoulder. On the left, the mind with an opinion and on the right the objective observer of the opinionated mind. Oh, what dialogs they have a times. Much of my opinions will reflect this observer-doer dual interaction in my mind. As you will notice, my opinions sometimes come from contemplating why I have a opinions at all. I rate my own mind rating a book. Yes, its complicated but I like it because I do it so I must.
Even though we currently live in a time period where everything is pre-chewed and we raise the best simplificators to the status of gods in TED-talks, I will not here succumb to expressing myself in the language of five stars and elevator pitch. Partly because I am not good at it but also because I know enough about how the brain works to not fall for this trap of stupidifying myself and my surroundings. So, if you my dear reader do not have enough time, interest or attention span to read my lines then your brain is most probably a good product of modern life and epigenetics. I am comforted but the fact that you belong to the vast majority. This is expected of us humans in our current quick evolutional development phase of speeding up the neural connections and hence stressing our autonomic nervous system to the limit. This ‘stressing’ is observed when I measure the vagus nerve and I can find references to it in most books.
But let me come to the point. Which books are interesting from the vagus nerve perspective? Where can a nerve explorer find advice? As I tried to point out above, essentially all books can be interesting if read from the right angle. But some are more than others. My favourite vagus science writers list is long but here are a few; Oliver Sacks, Stephen Porges, Antonio Damasio, Elizabeth Blackburn and Edward Bullmore. They have all contributed to increase my understand of myself and the vagus nerve. I also will comment on some texts by Aristotle, Seneca, Montaigne, Descartes and maybe also the Bible. The rest of the books I will pick up along the way
I will do these reviews for my own sake. This way I get the opportunity to return to my books and examine my scribbles. I usually make a mess of books which I like. I cannot read well without a pen. Lets hope I can find something of interesting for you too. I am very grateful for your feedback and advice on good ‘vagus-books’. Monologues are generally not good for the brain or the vagus nerve.