In my dual capacities as the book reviewer and a candidate for president of these United States of America on the fastest-growing political party in the Milky Way, the Dead Rights Party, I find myself in the moral quandary of having to decide to which of these two roles I am bound to direct my attention.
My editor reminds me that my contract stipulates that I write a semi-monthly column in which I warn my fellow Americans which books in our vast libraries and bookstores, used and new, should be avoided. I remind my editor that there is no stipulation in said contract that I cannot exercise my right as a voter over the age of thirty-five to run for the highest office in the land. His reply, that I was not born in these United States, is a valid point, though I have had to remind him that one plank on the Dead Rights platform is the passing of a constitutional amendment to fix that outmoded oversight.
But to the question: should this column be a book review, or should I use it to espouse one or another of the causes to which I, as a legally dead person, am committed?
Answer: I have recently taken time from my frenetic schedule to read a book. Ergo. . .
The Mind & the Brain, co-written by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. and Sharon Begley, is subtitled Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Dr. Schwartz, unlike your average PhD, is one of those doctors who can do you some good, especially if you happen to suffer from OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is a research professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. Ms. Begley, unlike your average person whose last name begins with a B, writes fancy prose and knows where to put commas and semi-colons. She is the award-winning science columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
In a mere 375 pages, Dr. Schwartz proves that people and laboratory monkeys have minds, not just three pounds of grey gelatin called a brain. Apparently philosophers and neurologists have long been skeptical on this point. It is important that we, and presumably our pets, have minds, says Schwartz with the help of his award-winning co-author. Otherwise we would be automatons and life would be an illusion. We would not have free will, with the result that we couldn’t achieve our goals. I, to use a ready example, could not be running for president. My wife, who in her pre-coffin days suffered from OCD, could not have been cured of her habit of making me take out the trash every day of the week.
The proof of this strange theory that people have minds is that the theory of quantum mechanics is true. The devil is in the details.
If you have half a mind, you will want to read this book. If I am elected president, I will convince a mindless Congress to make it required reading for every doctor in America, including all those Ph.D.s whose usefulness to society is in serious doubt.