Barbara Laymon

Praying and blogging along the way

If I only had a brain

January 22, 2011

Tags: prayer, humor

Maybe the scarecrow was onto something
Have you seen the Human Origins exhibit at the Museum of Natural History? The increasing brain size of the evolving human, and its evolutionary advantage, in spite of the many demands a large brain places on our bodies, is stunningly obvious. Somehow, though, even in a town like Washington, DC, where intellectual prowess is prized, and in a church where 70 folks will show up on a freezing cold night to see who can remember the most trivia, we are still limiting our brains to a subset of the functions it can accomplish for us. The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, wishing desperately for a brain, puts it well:
I would not by just a nuffin, My head all full of stuffin, My heart all full of pain… I would dance and be merry, Life would be a ding a derry, If I only had a brain.
In effect, the scarecrow is saying that if he could think more clearly, he would be happier. He is saying that without frontal lobes, he is without the capacity to process his feelings, and, as a consequence, gets stuck in them. So very often, it’s not what happens, nor the feelings that initially result, but how one processes the feelings and chooses to think about what has happened, that makes all the difference in life. At this point, one’s theology does matter. When one encounters hatred, injury, doubt, and despair within oneself, a thoughtful reminder of one’s belief system is the perfect antidote. Only after one has done this inner work is a person ready to share hope with the world. A prayer attributed to St. Francis says it well:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Another way the scarecrow had it right: music. Music is a way to help the brain remember. Music creates multiple neurological pathways (and for those who were at trivia night, to remember and sing in unison – 30 plus years later - all the words to Take me home country roads). Here are some musical settings of the prayer of St. Francis. May they bring peace and joy to your heart and brain!
Set in Assisi and
Westminster Abbey and
Philippine Madrigal Singers


  1. January 22, 2011 9:41 PM EST
    Michael said that you were pondering from trivia night but I hear reflections from last week's adult forum - why does our theology matter? Because it effects how we process our experience, and therefore act on it.
    - Cara Spaccarelli