Surprising the Brain

White BucketThe Brain Bucket. I’m told that’s a thing. I’m told that by a guy named Jon Acuff, who makes me laugh enough to believe that everything he says is true.

So the Brain Bucket. He said our brains are wired in such a way that when we see or hear something we’ve come across before, we Bucket it. “Yep, been/seen/heard that before.” And we continue on with other distractions.

This. Is. So. Me. I used to drive professors crazy because once my brain got something, it placed it in the bucket and was done with them and their teaching. I was known for playing solitaire in the back of the room (back in the days of dinosaurs when the internet was not in every classroom and solitaire was all I had). And it really wasn’t out of disrespect, it was just because my brain wanted to move on to something else once the brain bucket was full of that topic. You can imagine how much my husband loves this feature whenever he’s sharing his heart with me.

So, says Jon, getting past the Brain-Bucket-tune-out for things like spiritual lessons and lifetime truths requires a way to “surprise the brain”. Keep things interesting. Introduce an old truth in a new way.

Backs of books? Hate ‘em. Movie trailers? No, please. I want to be surprised.

So a few Sundays ago – one of those gloriously leisurely mornings – we lounged our way through YouTube videos and MY BRAIN GOT SURPRISED.

Oh my gosh. Oh my GOSH.

Exhibit A: Holy vocal pipes.

Chills, right? I mean, I was crying. CRYING. See, everyone’s brain – including mine, and most definitely Simon Cowell’s, had Brain-Bucketed this guy. Heavy guy shows up on stage wearing sweat pants and floppy hair. Sure, go ahead and wow us. He’s shy and nervous and you can just feel yourself bracing for the mockery. The crowd is snickering already. He’s been Brain-Bucketed as someone who does not have talent. And then he puts the microphone to his mouth. And the room is literally blown away. The power. The MAJESTY of this guy’s voice. Are you kidding me!? HE just did THAT!? Everyone’s Brain got Surprised. Ah-maz-ing.

Exhibit B: Am I allowed to, umm, laugh?

A boy with cerebral palsy. And he thinks he’s a comedian. And his parents have brought him here to audition. It’s cute. And heart warming. But you can almost feel yourself cringe as you hope he might be good but you’re pretty sure he won’t be. I mean, let’s just hope that Simon isn’t too mean to the sweet handicapped boy, right? He’s been Brain-Bucketed in the sympathy bucket, but there’s no bucket for “funny handicapped kid”.

And then he comes out on stage – to a vicious audience that has just destroyed the auditioner that came before him. Rightfully so, but still brutal. The cringe-factor in your heart intensifies.

But his first joke is funny. You dare to chuckle. His next line is even funnier than the last. Hey, this kid may be onto something. By the time his audition is done, everyone – including Simon – has a general laugh in their heart because The Handicapped Kid is Really Funny. Their brains got surprised.

Exhibit 3: Shadows aren’t just for puppets.

Yes, total coincidence that this post is dedicated exclusively to Britain having Talent. This is not a sponsored post.

But the shadows. HELLO!? How are they doing that with their bodies!? I mean, I know how they’re doing that – it’s light and dark and there’s a screen, blah blah blah. But my brain has no bucket for people making a shadow picture with their bodies like this. The beauty, the drama, the ELEPHANT.

YouTube is a playground for brain surprises.

Life is a playground for brain surprises. When I don’t relegate someone – including myself – to a predesigned brain-bucket, but am ready to hear or experience something new, I can actually have fun on life’s playground.

Now don’t get me wrong – not all surprises are good. Last year I had two brain-surprises collide in on me all at once. I was sitting at a conference having just learned that my husband had been fired. From a Church. I had no Brain-Bucket for that. There was no scandal, no job performance issue or moral failing to lead this Church to fire my husband, so my Brain was trying to process this whole new idea, and I have to confess that my dominant concern was expiring health insurance benefits.

Lost in my own health insurance woes, I was vaguely aware of something being set up on stage. A microphone and a chair and a guitar. And then a guy came out on stage. With no arms. No. Arms. This fact will be important in about one sentence.

He sat down and began to play Amazing Grace. With his feet. On the guitar. Beautifully. Not a modified-for-the-feet version of Amazing Grace, but a fully strummed, gorgeous rendition of this hymn. No. Brain. Bucket.

I had no way to explain to my brain that a guy was playing the guitar with no arms.

His story was then shared – he was born in Eastern Europe, where no arms was seen as a curse. Not only on him, but on his family and anyone who touched him. The result: He was turned over to an orphanage, but received virtually no touch, no cuddling, no attention beyond the absolute basic essentials of food and water. At eight months old, his medical file had not only his date of birth, but also his anticipated date of death. He was languishing, his body too weak to survive for long. He had been Brain-Bucketed as the cursed child with no arms and no future.

But a couple here in the United States got word of his file. They applied to adopt him. They were told they were crazy, that he’d probably die before they got him home and most assuredly thereafter. Still, they surprised everyone’s brains by saying “we want him.”

At age 8, his mom saw that he loved music. So she bought him a drumset and hired a drum teacher. This is the part of the story where, as her friend, I would have lovingly reminded her that HER SON HAD NO ARMS. So drums might be, you know, not as practical as, say, a set of headphones to feed his musical interest. My Brain has no Bucket for buying drumsticks for a boy who doesn’t have fingers to hold them! Thankfully hers did.

Because he thrived. He now plays eight different instruments, all of which traditionally require oh, you know, ARMS. It kind of put my health-insurance woes in perspective. It was still a hard year to rally from a job loss and the pain of separating from your home church, but I can’t tell you how many times my mind went back to that boy on stage. Playing Amazing Grace. With his feet.

He surprised my brain. His mom surprised my brain. Life surprises my brain. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get really comfortable with my set of brain-buckets and everything fitting within “what I already know”, but really, really I’d far rather live a life that my brain has to catch up to.

 

 

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s