Life’s complicated. Ask the brain.
The middle part of any story—as Shawn Coyne calls it, the Middle Build—should put complication after complication in the path of the Hero to keep him/her from reaching the final goal (and to keep the reader turning the pages).
As you’ll see in this episode, the brain is more than willing to do its part in this endeavor.
So much so, with this episode I introduce in the Beam Me Home, Scotty! page above a “Cast of Characters” page. Should you ever forget who’s who and what’s what, you can check it out to remind yourself of all that has to be accounted for if we are to understand combat trauma—and even more, how to move forward from it.
So, on to complications.
By hovering the cursor over a Star Trek character or location, see corresponding brain function/site.
Jane and Joe turn to see over the guardrail, down in the Transporter Room, none other than Mr. Scott.
Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) Mr. Scott, that is.
“Surprised that I’m a CW5?” he asks. “Come now! I’m just a techie, like most Army warrant officers. Started out enlisted, from the earliest days of the brain’s development, and worked my way through the ranks until now I’m the Officer in Charge (OIC) down here. Welcome to the Transporter Room, and welcome to Command Central for all the first-line logistics and military intelligence in the brain.”
“And your job would be…?” asks Jane.
“I’m the thalamus,” he answers. “In some ways, I am the Transporter Room. Every sound, sight, sensation you receive, from outside your body or inside, transports here first. My job is to make sure that every sensation that ‘beams in’ gets processed and then moved on to where it needs to go. But I’d be nothing without my Senior Crew, senior, that is, in rank and in ‘age,’ in how long they have been functioning within the brain.”
At that, four other individuals appear, all non-commissioned officers (NCO’s). Once again they look very familiar—yet very, very not so.
“Wow,” says Joe. “Talk about a time warp.”
Indeed, the senior NCO of the four—a much older Vulcan—stepped forward.
“Greetings,” he says. “I’m First Sergeant (1SG) Spock Sr. No biologic relation to my “son” up on the Bridge, but we serve similar functions. Like him, I keep track of things, but here it’s not of reason, but rather of emotions. I am the amygdala, in charge of coordinating all the basic, wordless bodily impulses that push us toward something good or away from something bad.”
“And I,” says an older Russian stepping forward, a rolling file cabinet at his side, carrying, of all things, a movie camera, “am Sergeant First Class (SFC) Chekhov Sr. I am the hippocampus, the brain organ that is the deepest, oldest keeper of memory. I’m the one who must first identify sensations as either known or unknown. I’m the one who holds together all the most basic memories that make you ‘you.’”
“And I am SFC Uhura Sr.,” says the older woman who steps forward, pulling off her headphones. “Like my so-called ‘daughter’ up on the Bridge, I am the ‘communicator.’ But down here, rather than communicating with the world ‘out there,’ I communicate with the body ‘in here.’ I am the hypothalamus, who through chemical signals to the enlisted specialists and privates down in the Engine Room—the Brainstem—gets the body either to rev up or to settle down.”
“And I,” says the final older NCO, “am SFC Sulu Sr. Like my so-called ‘son,’ I am about movement. But down here, I am about automatic, ‘muscle memory’ movement. I am the cerebellum and other structures that coordinate action that doesn’t need conscious reflection, action that simply does and responds.”
“But even then,” says Mr. Scott, coming back forward, “we couldn’t do our jobs without the help of my Junior Crew, the emotions. These aren’t complex feelings like envy or warmth. Those are officers up in the cortex. As 1SG Spock Sr said, these soldiers wordlessly identify which sensations should be approached and which should be avoided. Without them there is no thought, no reason. Without them, there is no life.”
At that, six other soldiers, of varying ranks, appear next to 1SG Spock Sr.
“As the amygdala,” Spock Sr. says, “I am actually a center for one of the most powerful basic emotions, FEAR. But working with me are emotions like Staff Sergeant (SSG) RAGE, the attacker of what is to be avoided, as well as SSG LUST, the one who keeps the race procreated. Then next to them are Sergeant (SGT) SEEKING, the basic emotion that pushes us into the world; SGT PLAY, the basic emotion that pushes us to seek out our own kind, and then…”
“Well, what do you know ,” says Joe, leaning on the guardrail. “There he is, kid. The cause of all our combat pain: SSG RAGE.” He turns to Jane. “So how many times, kid, have you screwed up your life with his…”
“Not so fast, sir,” says Mr. Scott. “While it’s true that many of you combat veterans are more than acquainted with RAGE, don’t think that the sergeant is your problem. He’s just as important as the rest of my Junior Crew for getting the job done that makes you everything you are.”
“And just what job might that be?” Jane asks.
Mr. Scott smiles, looks at his subordinates, and then looks back up toward Jane and Joe.
“Glad you asked, ma’am. Welcome to the brain’s Officer Candidate School.”