I was reading a book last night called “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” by John Lehrer. It is about the possible correlations between art and science. Essentially, it argues that art gets there “first” when it comes to revelations about who and what we are. In a chapter on Virginia Woolf and the “emergent self” Lehrer argues that art has reached a spot science cannot (yet). For all that we search our neural pathways and the various workings of the physical human brain, we have been unable to locate the source of Self. The Self, though its thoughts may be fragmented, though we retain memories only for a short time, forms the narrative of who we are. Lehrer argues that Woolf understood something essential about the fragmented, plural self. Neuroscience has discovered evidence since, that the Self is indeed a split one. For example, the right and left brain can operate independently of each other. When a person is shown horizontal lines with her right eye, and vertical with her left, she will often superimpose one pattern upon another and “see” a check pattern. And when a person with a physically severed right and left brain is shown separate images with each, though s/he is at odds, s/he will often create a narrative to explain the discrepancy.
Nowhere can the reason for this narrative be found.
Human beings, it seems, are made to tell stories. The Self is made up of them, however fragmented or twisted they may be. If the reason for this is ever located in a part of the physical body, I don’t believe I would like to know it.