It should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of Firefly. Recently I had cause to remember a certain scene from the series, where two of the main characters discuss the amygdala. The amygdala is one heck of an interesting group of nuclei, and help us with everything from storing memory to handling emotions. In the episode, they present a definition of the amygdala by analogy: "Its like a filter in your brain that keeps your feelings in check." Without the amygdala, we would experience everything in real-time, and have no real mechanism for moving forward.
I thought of this recently, because I came across some instances where someone's life was irrevocably changed by forces beyond their control. It made me realize that even if we're being more careful going through life than Combes going through this cave, there's always a chance that something is going to try and trip us, try and derail us completely. This can be an incredibly worrying thought, but I was able to put it to the back of my mind thanks in no small part to my amygdala.
I think the arts are a kind of amygdala for our culture, for our entire species. We are daily presented with so much in the world that can and has gone wrong. There exists many powerful problems of our own making and many beyond our control, or at least beyond the control of the individuals affected. The arts should provide a release valve and a way of coping, of responding to our problems and escaping from them. Providing a filter and a distraction from reality is a necessary function of the arts, and helps us move forward as a species.
There are some comic works that are fulfilling these roles, that are exploring the problems in our heads while providing a world in which to escape and explore. Jon Cairns' Alpha Flag is one such work, and one that has been on our to-be-featured list for a while. Alpha Flag is the story of a quest for wholeness, a quest undertaken in a world that blurs the lines between what the mind thinks and the body experiences. I feel like saying much more about the story will ruin some fantastic symbolism and plot twists, so I'll end with the following summary. Alpha Flag is the story of a diver who washes up on the shore of an arctic town, and finds it populated with himself. It is well worth a read, and you should go do so now.
Thanks, see you next week.