Friday 24 July 2009

Ideas Worth Spreading ... Dreaming Spires ..

My Stroke of Insight was the moment I started to learn about strokes with my eyes opening to their effects. I had met some wonderful people in the hospital of all ages, 21 to 80 plus, each had been affected in different ways and each family had to suddenly adapt to this unexpected affliction for their child, mother, relation.

I had seen a review of this book in the Times Magazine and was totally bowled over, so much so that I ordered a copy. This is “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, and is her personal journey, as a Brain Scientist who suffered a major stroke. We all need to learn about things that may well affect us in later life – this blog is for my mother, who suffered three major strokes in the spring of 2007 and who had effects that I had no idea about.

I am always keen to learn and I like learning the easy way – I am not erudite, even though I see the dictionary defines it as learned! I have enjoyed books such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - by a Frenchman, who could only move an eyelid; My Year Off – by Robert McCrum, rediscovering life after a stroke; Stuart: A Life Backwards – he is homeless, a thief, hostage-taker, pyscho and street raconteur; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - about Asperger’s Syndrome.

Since my mother has been ill, having spent time in three hospitals and the Home for over two years I have met lots of people and learnt lots of new things. My mother has left-sided neglect, it is much better now, it can be a stroke condition where the person ‘ignores’ their left side and that side is neglected, I suppose! It means that she cannot read properly – however she can see words and pictures, and her brain is just about fully functioning – even now two years on.

So my main objective is to help her through – for how long one never knows .. I was told it could be four years, however someone down here, who cannot talk, has been going for seven years. Do we realise these things? I suspect not.
The Chaplains in London would drop off a card saying they had visited and often it would have a quote on it from a Saint, or philosopher – they interested my mother, so I would be sent home to Google it and find out more!

In fact as I travelled this journey with my mother, I have covered so many subjects – granted in a superficial way – but we have laughed, commented, learnt, wondered and kept ourselves amused. This blog reflects this and if you could see my desk, it too is piled with other interesting topics – I relaxed last night for an hour, as some issues have been resolved and I just needed a space ... well as you might expect I cannot stop and found at least another ten subjects to write about!

Robert Koehler, Tribune Media Services, reviews Jill Bolte Taylor’s book thus: “Fascinating ... Bursts with hope for everyone who is brain injured (not just stroke patients) and gives medical practitioners clear, no-nonsense information about the shortcomings of conventional treatment and attitudes toward the brain injured .. But to my mind, what makes “My Stroke of Insight” not just valuable but invaluable – a gift to every spiritual seeker and peace activist – is what I would describe as Taylor’s fearless mapping of the physiology of compassion, the physiology of nirvana. This book is about the wonder of being human.”

Later on I ‘stumbled’ Jill’s TED site and had my first look at a TED video. I was impressed and have since seen a few other videos from an amazingly diverse range of speakers. This week in Oxford, England 700 vetted delegates have arrived for what is described as a four-day intellectual jamboree with 50 speakers.

In the Saturday Times, Antonia Senior wrote an essay entitled “Supersmart or Supersmug” about this upcoming (TED) technology, entertainment, design conference. The delegates will hear a mix of scientists, businessmen, musicians and intellectuals in 18 minute chunks ‘tell-a-story approach’ – a hall full of clever people receiving thought provoking ideas: I would love to be there!

On the TED website there are ‘Other Talks’ from “TED in 3 minutes” and some of the videos are 8, 12 or 15 minutes, apart from the ‘Master Stories’. There are 489 talks listed on the site; you can sort these by: Newest releases; Most languages; Most emailed this week; Most comments this week; Most favorited all-time; Rated jaw-dropping; ... persuasive; ... courageous; ... ingenious; ... fascinating; ... inspiring; ... beautiful; ... funny; ... informative; and you can sort by ‘Show Talks’ related to: Technology; Entertainment; Design; Business; Science; and Global Issues.

These eclectic ideas suit my rather scatter gun approach to the subjects that my mother and I are interested in .. I found Jay Walker, curator of the Library of Human Imagination; Robert A F Thurman, the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama; Organ virtuoso, Qi Zhang; Mathematician and Magician Arthur T Benjamin = Mathemagics!; Iqbal Quadir tells how his experiences as a kid in poor Bangladesh led to his setting up GrameenPhone in conjunction with the Grameen Bank (I had heard of the Bank 21 years ago in South Africa); and last but not least geopolitical expert Parag Khanna, who asks “Do we live in a borderless world?”

The review of Khanna’s talk about the borders of the last 60 years starting with the world in 1945 and how there were 100 nations, now there are many more through the de-colonisation process. He features a map of Russia and China which he is using in his illustrations of the borderless world – the map is of a time 700 years ago. Sometimes when I start researching my blog post I am amazed where the information leads me – often back thousands of years, with history not so much repeating itself, but reinventing itself .. or as Knanna says “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.

It also reflects my mother’s brain – most elderly people suffer some form of serious loss and do not remember recent events, but not here .. I have to contend with words such as Emmanuensis, subhirtella, a span of eighty years plus and the fact she remembers two posts I wrote about the House of Commons and the Speaker in May .. can you understand why I’m bouncing around with ideas to write about?

Dear Mr Postman – that’s life today .. thank you for visiting .. let’s open our mind to new ideas, new thoughts – we can all learn from these videos .. Qi Zhang plays Prokofiev – not my favourite .. but what a listen – would we ever see it otherwise – without the internet, Tim Berners-Lee (who also features) on TED ... I doubt it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

The books are available via Amazon


positively present said...

I love this post, Hilary! These books sound so interesting. I'm going to have to add them to my list...which is growing longer every day! :)

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary
I saw Jill Bolte Taylor's TED video and it is one of the most amazing thing I have ever seen. The matter of our brain is a interest of mine.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dani .. thanks just glad you enjoyed it .. I loved writing it .. and glad you're adding the books to your list - they certainly do teach us about life from different perspectives.

Have a good weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. I know you saw Jill's TED video - you'd popped up in the Stumble just before me! It is so interesting to learn how much the brain heals itself .. I too am fascinated by what we can do for ourselves even in illness. My mother is an example ..

Thanks for visiting - have a good weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Daphne @ Joyful Days said...

Jill's TED video brought tears to my eyes. I need to get hold of the book. Thanks for the great book recommendations. You are certainly a lover of learning and this blog shows it so clearly.

ps: The photo of the dreaming spires brought back memories... I thought you were going to write about Oxford!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. thanks so much & I'm so glad the link worked and you want to get the book .. they're all well worth it .. I want to see Parag Khanna's video & the map! Well all of them actually ..

Hey - sorry about the Dreaming Spires .. just suddenly the words slipped in as an extra .. I thought they'd trigger someone's thoughts - forgot about your Oxford connections ..

Great to see you here - thanks so much for visiting and such wonderful comments ..

All the best with tidying up after the move! ..
Go well - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, The Stroke of Insight book is marvelous. I wrote a post myself about that here:

Your book recommendations are deteiled and appealing. Thanks for taking the time to share.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thanks for commenting .. yes .. I'll go and look at your blog post .. I just love TED and the thoughts they put out .. we'd never know other wise ..

I'm on my way over .. thanks for being here ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Anonymous said...

This is a good article from The Observer about ther TED phenomena

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anonymous - thanks for visiting ..the above link goes through to the Guardian/Observer newspaper site with an interesting article - if people would like to know more.

Good to see you here and hope you enjoy some of the other posts -
all the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Wow Hilary,

What a wonderful post. It is always good to learn and grow. That is why your posts are so good. Give your mother a hug from her fans. Hope that both of you are doing as well as can be. Thank you for all that you do in helping us to learn and all that you do for your mother. Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. glad you thought this post was interesting .. I enjoyed writing it and learning in theprocess .. I look forward to listening to more of the TED topics.

You're really kind in your comments re the blog and I do what I can for my mother .. she appreciates it .. she is sleeping much more now.

Thanks - I will as it's now Monday.
All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters