Walker Percy Wednesday 102

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It is a bad time for psychiatrists. Old-fashioned shrinks are out of style and generally out of work. We, who like our mentor Dr. Freud believe there is a psyche, that it is born to trouble as the sparks fly up, that one gets at it, the root of trouble, the soul’s own secret, by venturing into the heart of darkness, which is to say, by talking and listening, mostly listening, to another troubled human for months, years—we have been mostly superseded by brain engineers, neuropharmacologists, chemists of the synapses. And why not? If one can prescribe a chemical and overnight turn a haunted soul into a bustling little body, why take on such a quixotic quest as pursuing the secret of one’s very self?

*****

But accident or not, are there not signs of a suppression of cortical function in Mickey and Donna? I’m thinking particularly of the posterior speech center, Wernicke’s area, Brodmann 39 and 40, in the left brain of right-handed people. It is not only the major speech center but, according to neurologists, the locus of self-consciousness, the “I,” the utterer, the “self”—whatever one chooses to call that peculiar trait of humans by which they utter sentences and which makes them curious about how they look in a mirror—when a chimp will look behind the mirror for another chimp.

*****

Max laughs. “Well, don’t forget my practice is not here but in New Orleans, the city that care forgot. It has never been noted for either its anxiety or its sexual inhibitions.”

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