On certain kinds of days, usually those when I’m not feeling well, my mind starts asking questions. I’m usually able to answer these question, perhaps not correctly, but well enough. If I can’t find the answers within myself, I’ll look it up on the internet and will almost always get more answers than are helpful. These usually come from semi-literate people who post answers based on their lack of proper grammar, their inability to spell even the simplest of words, and their overall lack of critical thinking skills. Sometimes they answer in rude or abusive ways that consist of four-letter words. But, mostly, I can answer my questions myself using my imagination, of which I can boast no little measure. Today might be one of those days.
For instance, this morning I woke up wondering what was Julius Caesar’s main thought that moment when 60 senators stepped forward to assassinate him. We know his reaction (according to Plutarch) to the first stab, delivered by Tillius Cimber: “This is violence!” His next utterance was to Publius Casca, who delivered the second blow: “Casca, you villain, what are you doing?” And what about those famous last words, “Et tu, Brute?” (“You too, Brutus?”) Roman historian Suetonius reported that Caesar’s last words were, “You too, child?” while good old reliable Plutarch maintained that Caesar said nothing, but pulled his toga over his head when he saw Brutus approaching. If true, I interpret that as a sign of devastating emotional hurt and betrayal, something so terrible the man couldn’t bear to face it. He’d known Brutus since Brutus was a boy, after all. No, the famous last words were penned by William Shakespeare and have no basis in historical fact. But my question isn’t about the man’s last words. I wonder about what went through his mind when he saw all those drawn daggers coming toward him. Thanks to Lynette’s education in trauma’s effects on the brain, I believe he went into classic trauma response. This is a complicated science, one that I can’t get into here. Besides, I’m not trained in the subject like she is. But here’s the thing. I believe Caesar’s first two statements, “This is violence!” and “…what are you doing?” have to be factual because they conform perfectly to how the brain reacts when faced with trauma, something Plutarch, even with his vast range of knowledge, couldn’t have known. And the toga gesture? As Lynette says, “Hormonally-induced emotional denial. That’s oxytosin.” I’m hoping she’ll explain things a little in a comment (hint, hint).
Another far less weighty question is, who was the first guy to peel and eat a banana? More, how did he decide to to try it? It might’ve been poisonous. And did he actually peel it, or did he try biting through the thick, bitter peel first? I think I have the answer to this one, actually. I think humans followed the lead of other animals where most food-producing plants were concerned. If a monkey didn’t die after peeling and eating a banana, it must be safe. I imagine they then killed and ate the monkey.
My most recent question pertains to our cat, Mozie. I understand why cats “make bread”. As nursing kittens, this is how they express the milk from their mothers. I even think I understand the purring while they make bread: expressing the milk releases endorphins that create feelings of pleasure and comfort. All well and good, but why does Mozie make bread on my face at four in the morning, purring like a chain saw? What can he possible be getting out of it that makes him so happy? But cats do all sorts of things meant to puzzle humans, so I don’t linger on this question for very long.
And lastly, I still don’t understand how transmitting and receiving works. In anything. How can my voice, spoken into a phone, go halfway across the world and come out at the other end sounding uniquely like me? How does music go out across the land on radio waves and come through my speakers sounding like what it’s supposed to sound like? And how does something get imprinted on a strip of film simply by opening the shutter? Actually, this isn’t such a stumper as the answer lies in the mirror inside a camera, but digital cameras? I really have no idea how that works. I’ll probably die never know the answers to these questions because, although they’ve been explained to me many times, I still don’t get the HOW.
My mother used to tell me that when I was a very small child I had two questions I used to ask her: “What are elephants made of?” and “How big is the sky?” I know the answer to one of those, but the other I’m still trying to find out.