The Reptilian Brain (we've all got one)

Walking on Outer Drive in the early morning, I look down and notice a small silvery 'S' glinting on the asphalt.  It's a worm snake, white belly up, lying dead in the street.  Idly, I wonder what killed him.  He's not flat, so he wasn't run over by a car.


I continue walking and about fifty yards down the road, I encounter a second little fellow, also a worm snake, about the same size, perhaps ten inches long, belly up near the curb.  Curiously, he's not flattened either.

 

 And finally, just a short distance away, I notice a third little snake, also dead.  

 

As I walk I can't help but wonder what killed them.  Are their deaths connected?  Probably not; more likely just a case of unrelated coincidence.  But then I remember a Sanskrit proverb:    "Every coincidence, traced to its origin, is seen to have been inevitable."  

 

Whenever I remember that proverb, it gives me the chills.  I wonder what path has already been set in motion for me. 


I continue walking under the rising sun.  It's getting hot and I shed my jacket and tie it around my waist.  A hawk circles overhead, aloof. He's not interested in me or the dead snakes, but hawks aren't carrion eaters.

 

 Turkey buzzards are, though, and we have a lot of buzzards around here. I wonder if the buzzards will find the snakes and eat them.  Or perhaps the crows will.  I noticed a crow eating road kill, a squirrel, just yesterday.  

  

As I get closer to home, I find myself pondering the reptilian brain and wondering if it has any awareness of death when it comes. I'd like to know because those three little snakes are, after all, my cousins, evolutionarily speaking.   

 

 I too have a reptilian brain.  We all do.  It's the oldest part of the human brain, located just above the brain stem.  It's the reptilian brain that keeps the body's automatic systems running, regulating heart beat, breath, digestion and other basic functions.  


I suppose it's the reptilian part of the human brain that clings most tenaciously to life. So it seemed with both of my parents. 


 I recall my poor Daddy, in a coma, while his heart continued to beat sporadically and his shallow breath labored on.   And my Mother also, who in her last weeks on earth lay in her bed like a breathing corpse, with unseeing, blank eyes, no more than a husk of herself, nobody home.

 

How much do we have in common with our reptilian cousins?  And why do so many of us have an instinctive fear and loathing of reptiles in general and snakes in particular, even the harmless ones like those pitiful little worm snakes on the road, who are, like everything else in creation, our relatives.  


In the deepest and most ancient recesses of our large human brains, aren't we all reptiles? 

 

And perhaps indiscreetly, I might opine that I am, unfortunately, acquainted with  a few two legged reptiles that I wish had never slithered out from under their rocks.   

 

Be Well and Good Luck,

Martha Maria

 


    


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