It’s the brain game (part II)

Welcome to part two of our series on the brain, which is really something I just made up (the series I mean, not the brain).

You may recall in my last column I pointed out that our brains are out to get us. In this column I will provide further proof, assuming that your brain lets you read stuff like this and hasn’t convinced you.

Way back in the day, I played cricket for the mighty Western Suburbs Under 16 A2 side; if you want to know how mighty we were, cricket-wise, at least two of that side have gone on to become solicitors. Back in those days, junior teams did not have names like ‘All-stars’, ‘Sapphires’ or ‘Raptors’ (three actual names of teams from my daughter’s soccer club) but if we did it would probably have been the ‘Averaginators’. 1

One game, we needed six runs to win from the last ball, and I hit it. I say that partly because it is great fun to tell people about it2, but also because it fits in with my ‘anti-brain campaign’.

That is because while I know it happened, and have a trophy and everything, I don’t really recall much of the detail; my brain has decided that it wasn’t important enough to record it at all, let alone in hi-def 3-D with THX spatial surround sound, which is what I would have preferred. That might make sense if it wasn’t for the stuff that my brain does devote many of my dwindling supply of brain cells to memorising in minute detail.

For example, there is a song from the 80s called ‘Pass the Dutchie’ which has been found, by actual scientific experiment by CSIRO, to be the worst song ever recorded3. Knowing this, my brain has committed swathes of it to memory, and replays it any time it (my brain) feels that I am having too much fun. It never forgets the existence or melody of that song. Then there is the exam problem, with which I am sure we are all familiar.

You are sitting in the exam4 answering a problem, and in your mind’s eye, you can see your notes, every bit of them, except for the bit with the answer you need. Try as you might, you cannot make your mind’s eye scroll down the image and see that which you most need to see.

This happened to me many times, and each time I couldn’t see the answer, because my brain – which is not in my side, remember – has erased the memory of the answer, to make room for things such as the theme from Gilligan’s Island and the jingle advertising Oxy-10 pimple cream (both of which I can recall word-for-word to this day).

The brain also makes damn sure you never forget anything embarrassing; if you had won the Nobel prize your brain would happily erase memories of that to preserve every detail of the time back in high school when you went up to collect the maths prize with your dress tucked into your underwear. My brain loves to recall the time I split my pants at work, and asked my boss if I could go home and change them; she said OK but I had to demonstrate that the pants were really split.

These days, of course, I would simply sue her, but back then I just turned around and bent over to reveal the split. Great day to be wearing my phantom boxer shorts, but it gets worse because I was dating one of the secretaries – a fact we had decided not to tell people at work. What she had decided to tell people was that it was her new secret boyfriend’s birthday, and to show them the phantom boxer shorts she had bought for him (that job did not last long).

So we can see that our brains do not put us in a good state of mind, but saying that does allow me to engage in the worst segue in the history of literature5, and talk about how being Australian is a state of mind. This came up because one of my colleagues was talking about the citizenship exam she took to become officially Aussie, but none of the questions she had to answer really captured it; they were all about voting rights, federation and the sort of things that send most Australians to sleep.

So, in a sincere attempt to capture the Australian ‘zeitgeist’6 I present my take on how you know you are really an Aussie:

  • Pretty much all of your friends’ names end with an ‘e’ or ‘o’ sound (Evo, Fitzy, Robbo, Johnno, Smithy…)
  • You  think nothing of driving 400km on a day trip
  • You understand Vegemite
  • You would rather be Captain of the Australian Test Cricket Team than Prime Minister of the country
  • Even if you are the Prime Minister of the country
  • You say ‘prawn’ not ‘shrimp’ and wouldn’t let one touch your barbie
  • You call your barbecue a barbie
  • You know that the G is a sporting arena, not a letter
  • You take great pride in our killer wildlife
  • You enjoy letting foreigners believe that you regularly have to deal with our killer wildlife
  • Even if you are the Prime Minister
  • You think Cathy Freeman winning the gold medal in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics is far more impressive than anything ever done by any political or religious figure
  • You have convinced yourself that you were there when she won it.

1 Motto: ‘much better than you would think just from looking at us’
2 OK, mostly because of that; all right, overwhelmingly because of that
3 NB: Meat Loaf’s entire back catalogue would actually take that title, but top scientists technically define Meat Loaf’s work as torture, not music
4 This was in the days before law degrees came free with McHappy Meals
5 Literature? – Ed
6 Literally, ‘vibe’.

© Shane Budden 2020. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.

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