Wall & Main


My perspectives as an investor and consumer

Gifted Hands

brain_neurons_medLast week TNT aired an original movie, “Gifted Hands,” based on a book of its namesake. The book is a memoir of Dr. Ben Carson, a man I greatly admire.  Dr. Carson is the world’s foremost expert in pediatric nurosurgery.  The movie reminded me of why his life and book have been such an inspiration to me.  Coming from an impoverished background in Detroit, with the nickname “Dummy,” it was no small feat for him to reach the pinnacle of medicine.  His body of pioneering work includes the first successful separation in 1987 of Siamese twins joined at the head.

He credits his success, in large part, to his mother.  As a single parent, she had to work two or three jobs to keep from going on welfare and to provide for the family.  She accepted no excuses for poor work and insisted that as long as Dr. Carson had a brain, he could find a solution to any problem.  One of her statements has stayed with me:

“You’ve got all the world inside your head.  You’ve just got to see beyond what you can see.”

I have long been fascinated with the scientific and metaphysical aspects of the brain; this serves as another reason why Dr. Carson’s story resonates with me.  The brain is probably the most complex biological structure known.  From a scientific perspective, it is seen as generating behavior that promotes the welfare of the animal.  Philosophically speaking, however, it may be the physical structure supporting the mind.

I am not a neuroscientist but I believe our brain and our mind to be powerful enough to meet greater demands than what most of us normally place on it.  According to Dr. Carson, we don’ t use all of our brain but the more it’s challenged, the more it delivers.  Imagine how the remaining half of a child’s brain that has undergone hemispherectomy adapts to take over many of the functions of the resected portion.  Many neurologists, neurosurgeons, and psychiatrists attribute this to neuroplasticity, the structural and functional adaptation of the brain to various stimuli.  Recent school of scientific thought claims that neuroplasticity is not merely relegated to the developing brain of a child but can occur in the adult brain, as well.

The exciting implication for me as an adult is the realization that I can continue to develop new skills, increase in knowledge and understanding, and add even more shades of color to my experience of the world.  Dr. Carson would say that it is not so much about an innate intellectual ability as it is about the target of our concentration.  It is about raising expectations.

In 2008 Dr. Ben Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award presented annually by the President of the United States.


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