A Strange Instrument, the Brain, etc.

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

“A strange instrument, the brain. You never really know what sound you’ll get when you press one key or another. Of course, if you stimulate the occipital lobe with a mild electric shock, the man sitting in front of you will most likely report that he sees colors, just as pressing on neurons in the temporal lobe will probably lead to the illusion of sounds. But, while science is extremely partial to general, uniform rules, people are partial to being distinguished from one another. Two patients with damage to their orbitofrontal cortex will never have the courtesy to coordinate their side effects. One will behave crudely, and the other will become obsessively cheerful. One will make tasteless sexual remarks, and the other will feel an uncontrollable need to pick up every object in his path. Randomness, that seductive little whore, dances among the ward’s beds, spits on the doctors’ lab coats, and tickles the exclamation marks of science until they bow their heads and become rounded into question marks.”

Excerpt From: Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. “Waking Lions.” iBooks.

It has always seemed to me that the thing people who do not identify as disabled fear the most about disability is its infinite variability. No two blind people are alike; no two paraplegics or quads. Certainly deaf individuals are alike through language but they are unique as citizens. This frightens the ableist majority for whom a crippled sameness matters, and matters terribly, since with sameness they can imagine that normalcy is also real. It is terrifying to consider how flimsy “normal” ideas of static embodiment are, for the normal body is just a few flickering falsehoods. In this way disablement is truthful like the random brain itself.

BTW, Ayelet Gunder-Goshen’s novel “Waking Lions” is a marvelous book. A narrative of haunting instabilities. It is the best novel I’ve read this year.


The nights are bigger this time of year

And the moon is in accord

I dream of my father

Whose sorrow

Was Finnish:

The hymn in mind

What to say?

A song he learned early

Standing in darkness


So what of me? A second generation Scandinavian-American who can’t sing away his father’s hymns. In dreams I’m dead on my back. Last night I scared my wife when I moaned at 2 AM.

Ghosts were after me. They didn’t have the home character of America. These were serious fucking ghosts from Lapland.


I ask every morning of the birds how it all was…



Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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