Ted (merovingian) wrote,

A Feast of Brains

I was at the library, doing some research on Nigerian 419 crimes, when I noticed that someone else was doing the same thing. She was an achingly beautiful black woman, probably in her mid-fifties.

Once it became obvious, I ventured, "You're researching 419 crimes too?"

She smiled and nodded, "Kind of. Why are you looking for them?"

"Morbid curiosity, I suppose. And the theory of it is astounding. Is the U.S.A. filled with enough gullible wealthy people to sustain a good part of the Nigerian economy? The proportions involved are kind of staggering."

She nodded, but seemed to lose interest.

"You?" I asked.

"I'm looking up every topic on a list of modern phenomena, alphabetically. I've been doing this for about a year now, and I still haven't reached 'A'."

I was confused but impressed.

"Oh!" she said with a smile, "That must seem pretty unusual. I'm a Yoruba medicine deity, you see, so I have plenty of time."

I wasn't sure whether she was crazy or clever. "Yemaya, right?"

She seemed pleased, "Yes, but you seem to have the advantage of me."

"Oh, hi, I'm Ted. So, um, wow, it's an honor to meet you, Yemaya. I didn't know you hung around libraries."

"It's kind of a long story."

"I have time."

"Okay, here's my situation. The world's main religious conflict these days seems to be between one gestalt of monotheistic faiths and another of materialist-atheist-agnostic beliefs. Most of the polytheistic faiths have been absorbed into a notable minority of pagan beliefs, most of which involve a postmodern blending of various faiths."

She paused to make sure I swallowed that. I nodded and she continued.

"That leaves me with a few options. I could try to get in with the materialists, and jump into a Campbell-style archetype, like Apollo or Dionysus - but that's a little too abstract for me, and Apollo already has the medicine thing going. I could fully synchretize, like Erzuli and Legba - sorry, I should say Mary and St. Anthony - but I've been trying that and I'm not satisfied. I could just fade into obscurity, like, say, Susanoo - but who wants that? Or I could go with modern Paganism - but I'd be just one of a wide variety of Mother Goddesses in a conceptual whole. I think I'm a little too proud for that. It looks bleak, so I'm studying other options."

I was hooked. "What have you found so far?"

"Well, I've got an idea of a concept to govern over, and with that kind of marketing angle, I may be able to get through this."

"What's that?" She had a charming way of rambling, and I wanted to hear more.

"Well, I've noticed a cultural ideal that the mentally ill are, in some way, absolved at least partially of responsibility, on the very reasonable assumption that the illness is uncontrollable. If one accepts that these problems are neurological or biochemical in nature, it's pretty reasonable to state that there's a continuum, and that less extreme personality traits are also biological at root. So, for instance, someone given to bursts of anger and attention-demanding is a very mild version of a personality disorder. Or there might be a continuum between, say, laziness and depression."

This was no news to me, but, okay, I was willing to listen along. This was Yemaya, or someone who claimed to be Yemaya, after all.

She continued. "So, there's a few questions at that point that are mysterious enough to merit religious status. At what point is the boundary drawn? Does free will enter the equation? If it's a continuum, does responsibility fade with the ability to balance? Does this encourage people to head toward pathological behavior to gain such freedom? To what extent should mental states be governed biologically, as compared to cognitively? Can psychiatrists replace therapists?"

I nodded, "You should check out transcranial magnetic stimulation when you get the chance; it may be helpful to you, and maybe it could use a good goddess."

She scowled stubbornly, "I probably won't reach T for another few decades."

We smiled awkwardly and said our goodbyes.
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