Trying to Calm the Monkey Brain

The world is crazy right now. Egypt is collapsing into chaos. Our government is committing war crimes and spying on its own citizens. The person who exposed the war crimes was just sentenced to thirty-five years in prison; the one who revealed the massive spying apparatus is a fugitive from justice, currently residing in Russia. Dozens of Syrians have been killed in an apparent chemical attack, but no one seems to know who attacked whom, or why. Radiation is leaking out of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and into the Pacific Ocean. Suffice to say, things are feeling out of control.

They are out of control, and honestly—I know this sounds weird—you and I should draw some comfort from this. There is nothing we can do about it. Or rather, there is very little we can do, as individuals, to solve those immense problems.

The internet draws us all together in a way that is totally unique to the history of humankind. We have no experience with this constant, all-encompassing exposure to information as it is being formed. It can be overwhelming.

Aside from the major geo-political movements, and the natural or human-made disasters, there are a thousand different social issues to be made aware of, and to worry about. Today I was exposed to stories about bears being tortured for their bile in China, FEMA death camps being staffed in Southern Oregon or Northern California, population-control elitists in positions of power, and a trio of kids who decided to shoot an Australian college student in the back, for fun.

There’s not much I can do about any of this. I can grit my teeth, wreck my jaw, tear my hair out and lose years off of my life—but none of that affects any actual change. None of that does anyone any good.

I’m not saying it isn’t good to be aware of all of these problems, but there’s a point where awareness transmutes into obsession. There is a point we can cross where our awareness can become harmful to our psychic well-being.

We have limited time on this planet, and limited energy. It’s important to channel that energy into the areas where we can affect positive change.

Look, I’m not trying to get too preachy here—I’m writing this for myself as well as anyone else who might be reading. I get caught up in all this chaos and noise. I find my head buzzing with it often. By focusing my energy on the issues—writing about them, arguing about them, thinking about them—it feels like I could bring about change. It doesn’t though; I don’t think it does, anyway. I guess it helps organize my own thoughts. I suppose it helps me to understand where I stand.

The “Monkey Brain” is the part of the brain that chatters. It provides an endless litany of rambling, desperate monologue. The Monkey Brain tries to explain away this chaos; it tries to make sense of nonsense—but the chaos is always there.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.