Awesome Variety

I am working towards my master’s degree in neuroscience. My field is absolutely incredible, and there are tiny moments of awe peeking out at me all the time. For example- there are a over a thousand times more synapses (points where neurons communicate) in your brain than there are stars in the entire Milky Way galaxy. And yet these rattle away in almost perfect harmony for your entire life, whether or not you know they’re there.

But it was several days ago that learning about neuroscience actually gave me a physical sensation of awe. I was sitting in the library reading the book Connectome, by Sebastian Seung. Overall, the book is just okay, but there was one part that really moved me. Seung was describing how the arrangement of synapses in our brain could be one of the main things that determines the wide range of mental differences between people, and that this arrangement might be largely due to random chance.

I sat back in my chair, and my mind filled with the incredible, stunning variety of humanity. Introverted, extroverted, gay, straight, alcoholic, genius, bi-polar, claustrophobic, funny, obsessive-compulsive, musical, and on and on. I felt like we were all part of one fabric, and we should all work as hard as we can to respect and preserve the truly awesome richness of our species. For a moment, I felt as thought I had glimpsed something behind the scenes, beyond anyone’s control, that shapes our humanity, and it made me feel connected to every other person on the planet. And it made me love them.

Peter Hildebrand, East Hartford, CT