brain soup

Written by Patrick J Turner Jr

Published on January 18th, 2024

Something happened to me this week. I came to an epiphany on how to completely fix everything in my life (for the first time (again)). This has sort of happened a few times before, but I just forgot and/or fell victim to my own brain chemistry. But I've got it for real this time! Probably.

Basically it goes like this: the human brain is like a soup. Each day we add ingredients in the form of things we consume; food, ideas, media, people, etc. It turns out the age old wisdom, "you are what you eat" is true, just not necessarily only in the way that health freaks mean it. I'm not talking about some spiritual diet for your soul either, though the idea is likely closer to that in a metaphysical sense.

We make our soup every day. We can't help but to make our soup. In turn, our soup cannot help but to make us. Or even unmake us. Consciously or unconsciously, we toss things into our brain soup and then eat it throughout the day. We eat our soup even in our dreams. We make and eat our soup every hour of every day of every year until electricity ceases to run through the folds and wrinkles of our brains.

I guess I recognized this on a day of no particular note. It was Wednesday. Fun fact: I was born on a Wednesday! Wednesday, February 21st, 2001. I will progress to the age of twenty-three years in exactly one month, three days, three hours, and twenty-four minutes. As of my writing this at least. Ever since becoming an adult with a full time job I've felt this need to get my act together. I'm not a kid anymore. With each passing day I become further removed from my child state and more entrenched in my adult phase of life. I have to look after myself and set up my life in the form of a series of systems which are conducive to a better "me".

I had been feeling a bit stuck over the past week and a half. There's multiple reasons for this. I suppose mostly I just fell prey to my usual negative routines. Checking social media continuously for hits of dopamine. Obsessing over people I'll never speak to again. Overthinking the past. Wasting my life doing nothing alone in my room. Convincing myself life kinda sucks. You know, the usual.

Needless to say, these are not good ingredients to be putting into your soup. This is a disgusting soup full of rotten ingredients that makes you sicker than ever. I eat my junk soup out of pure habit. It is a mindless act of violence against my own body. At times like these I find myself even quieter than normal. I become morose, low-energy, and full of self-hatred. It's easy to get stuck in this sort of place. I mean, it's like a whirlpool of bad thoughts pulling you into a chain reaction of more bad thoughts until you either drown or get thrown a life preserver.

For me, a life preserver appeared before me in the form of a photography darkroom.

A couple of months ago I found out you could get a membership at the local college darkroom and schedule appointments for development there. After waiting for some extra cash to pay the membership fee, I finally got my first appointment made to do some printmaking. Man, I had heard the darkroom was therapeutic, but they were not joking. A big part of that comes from the fact you're in a dark, quiet room for sure; but another part comes from the joy of doing something productive and tangible with your hands.

You see this with all sorts of tasks involving your hands. Tons of stories have arcs with characters becoming stronger both physically and mentally by chopping wood on a stump in the middle of a forest. Obviously you don't have to get lost and chop wood to feel better about yourself though; any sort of craft meaningful to you can help. Woodworking, knitting, cooking, crafting, anything to occupy your hands or mind (or both!) is good for you. These are the prime ingredients of any good brain soup. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, so to speak.

Truly, after mixing the developer, stop bath, and fixer chemicals; after focusing the negative enlarger; after exposing an image onto photographic paper; after seeing that picture appear like magic on the paper in the chemicals, I was transfixed. My mind began to race with joy at discovering the ins and outs of the process. I did not become discouraged by my lack of understanding. I stayed calm. I was overcome with the curiosity and hunger for more knowledge.

Seeking new experiences, new knowledge, new people, new ingredients for soup! That's what life is all about.

It's moments like those that make me appreciate that sort of thing I suppose. They turbo charge my brain and overflow into all aspects of my life. I felt energized to go hang out with my friends after leaving the darkroom. My view of the world was brighter, cheerier, more understanding, more loving.

Things just sort of clicked for me when I entered this headspace. I recognized that I was making myself miserable by being quiet and shying away from my fellow humans. I realized that my negative actions and internal thoughts were only destroying myself. Becoming stuck thinking about things you can't change, or that don't matter will only lead to ruin. Undoubtedly, it's hard to break away from them, but this is what I'm hitting at: by seeking out the things that bring you joy and peace, you in turn create a more joyous and peaceful world for yourself (and others!)

This might sound obvious. I guess most epiphanies are in retrospect. Listen, I don't intend to sound like I'm a guy who thinks he has everything together. This blog should be all the proof you need to the contrary. I am no self help author nor a spiritual guru nor a philosopher. I do not want to be, nor do I think that people should seek guidance through the words of some worldly savior like that. We must each reach into the depths of our individual souls and discover our own solutions for our own lives. I write my thoughts here not out of service to a superiority complex, but to provide sense and record of my thoughts for myself. If I don't write it down, how will I remember it?

I don't know. Hopefully this helps someone though. Even if that someone ends up being future me reading it. That's all it really needs to be. I hope this is a reminder to make some warm, soothing brain soup.