Big Words, Whale Brains, and Life Wisdom.

Today’s thought process is brought to you by the random (and suspiciously ADHD-like), dusty corners of my medulla oblongata.

Just kidding. Don’t be ridiculous – I just like saying “meh-dooooo-laaaaa oblong-aaa-taaa.”

Kind of like “Wingardium Levi-oooo-sa.”

Anyhow, it’s been a strange couple of months.

I quit my job. YIKES. One that I liked very much, by the way.

I moved all my shit down to San Diego. DOUBLE YIKES to how much space my “closet” actually takes up.

I spent one of the best months of my life caring for family and being blessed with the time to truly get to know them and ease their transition during a difficult time.

I realized that San Diego wasn’t my cup of tea. Or double vodka for that matter.

I moved all my shit back up to Portland, and have been job hunting like a boss ever since.

And I get to start my fancy pants brand new job on Monday 🙂

In conclusion, not being a workaholic for the last month has been exhausting. I literally have had no idea what to do with myself. My body has no concept of not going 100 miles a minute with a perpetual to-do list times infinity. I’ve slept more in the last month than probably the last year of my life. I eat regular meals. At regular meal times. It’s appalling. I even have time to fold my clean laundry instead of using the dryer as my closet. WHO AM I? Gross.

I was EVEN accused of not meshing well with someone due to my lack of workaholism. Now given, workahol tastes like shit, but I was flabbergasted (also an excellent word to say). It was like being called a short blonde when I’ve obviously been tall and dark my entire life.

Anyhow, despite the systemic shock, I’ve been taking the time to catch up on my hobbies. Like wogging (jogging slower than you can walk). And becoming a closet marine biologist.

Did you know that clams are male all through their childhood and juvenile years, and if they somehow make it without getting eaten, they suddenly switch to female in old age (because girls are so mat-oor)? Is Bruce Jenner actually a clam? Too soon? Too soon.

Also. I’ve discovered that sperm whales have the largest brain out of all mammals, and read a fascinating article that used a lot of very multi-syllabic scientific words to argue whether or not bigger is actually better.0c5d1f22aee3dda8d14da37cd1d4c973

Essentially, mammalian intelligence is partially compared by a brain to body ratio, implying that if our brains are huge and our bodies are huge, then all our brain power is used up trying to power such a large system, giving us less power to actually “think.”

Recently, intelligence has also been quantified by the thickness of the neocortex (the top of your brain that looks like thick, grey spaghetti, and gets most of your actual thinking done). In which case, the whale brain is fairly competitive.

But there’s just one problem with this.  Scientists traditionally attribute intelligence to the number of neurons located in the neocortex (the little guys that send messages to the rest of the body). While whales have a considerable amount of these, they’re still not as plentiful as their thick neocortexes would imply, and instead have an incredibly high number of glial cells.

Although glial cells were originally classified kind of as the nanny cells (feeding, protection, support, etc.), research is beginning to indicate that they may be more important to neurons and intelligent processing than we thought.

So basically, whales have huge brains that we thought were better because of size, and then changed our minds, and then thought they were better because they had big neocortexes, and then changed our minds, and then we realized they had all these extra cool parts that makes us wonder if they’re ridiculously smart, but we just don’t know it yet. Whew.

Hang in there, guys, there’s almost a point to this. An extremely convoluted one, but a point, nonetheless.

I feel like a whale. Maybe because I ate a lot of Nutella today, but also because up until now, my productivity and level of success have been determined by the sheer number of neurons or size of of my dreams and accomplishments. Neurons in this case representing the resume builders: community service, hospital work hours, medical journal articles read, research done, etc. All the great stuff that we overfill our days with, because we’ve been told our entire lives that these are the things that make you smart and successful and a hard freaking workaholic.

But after spending a month caring for the people I love, and another month simply enjoying the peace and calm, and allowing myself the time to have new experiences, I wonder if these things, (my glial, cells if you will), are more important to success than we were taught growing up.

The convoluted point is that marking boxes on a perpetual checklist isn’t the only factor in finding success. The convoluted point is that our nanny cells and our support systems and our non-resume building extra fluff experiences are a non-negligible part of that success. The convoluted point is that it’s about time we start giving them the recognition and the time they deserve, because despite brain size, and neocortical thickness, and quantity of neurons, sometimes it’s the parts we don’t understand well that may just be the most important.

The End

P.S. Here is the link to the article I referenced:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/news-blog/are-whales-smarter-than-we-are/

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