The brain is a wonderful organ. I can easily remember things that happened 30, 40, 50, even 60 years ago, with vividness that sometimes astonishes me. Events that had a great impact on my life especially come into focus, often in great detail. And as I am recounting a story over coffee with someone, further details amazingly and unexpectedly emerge, which is one reason why I like having coffee with people. After an amiable coffee, I have an urge to write down the story while it is still fresh in my mind, giving you the story straight from that coffee talk! Maybe the coffee ingredients even help!
After all, as a neonatologist (doctor that takes care of sick infants), my colleagues and I actually use caffeine to help premature babies who may have a breathing problem: the “coffee” prods their brain to wake up and start breathing. Definitely a great use of caffeine/ coffee. Hence the name of my first creative non-fiction book, Coffee with Uncle Reggie!
I had a cousin who had a brain aneurysm rupture when he was aged 44. I did not even know that he was in the USA until I received a worried call, “your cousin is very sick in Columbus; you should try to visit him.” While Columbus was indeed only two hours away from Cincinnati where I was living, when I received the call we were actually in Canada on a family trip. We therefore rushed down to Columbus to find this cousin.
My cousin was in a perilous state. He was drifting in and out of coma. His wife of less than 10 years was distressed because often he could not remember her, nor even the children. It was the first time I had met his family, and probably 36 years since I had seen my cousin. So I was shocked when I walked into his hospital bedroom, that he opened his eyes and recognized me, after all these years.
We were children when we last saw each other, but when he saw me it seemed like we had been apart only very briefly, and were continuing a conversation just recently broken off. He called me first, affectionately, by my childhood nickname “Miao” (the word for “cat” which sounds like my original native name). Then he proceeded to talk in his native childhood Chaozhou (Swatow or Shantou) language, which I knew. It was just like we were children again.
On reflection, this childhood language he spoke, had long preceded his later English acquisition, which was the language of his American born wife and daughters. And then he lapsed back into a coma, and I never had a real chance to talk with him again. Somehow he had reached back into the deep recesses of his brain and found all those deep childhood Chaozhou connections to bring them to the surface, to communicate clearly to me, before he went to meet his Maker. In brain injury, often older memories which remain in the deepest parts of the brain may be spared, but more recent memories which are in the more superficial parts of the brain are often wiped out.
We are told that we actually all have a photographic memory, meaning that images that we have seen are fully stored in our brain “cloud”, practically without limit, and with no billing charge for storage! The biggest problem is not that our memories are not stored, it is usually that we may not find the code, or the keyword to enter into what could be a file within a file within a file, to find them. So conversations over coffee, and casual times when we are reminiscing, by a process of free associating, suddenly prompt the keyword, and the key to the original photograph and even a fully running video. It is an astonishingly designed system.
There is no question that events that are more dramatic and vivid will be etched more sharply in the brain, in even the greatest detail. I think this is how the early apostles wrote down the gospel stories and the specific teachings of Christ, since many events were particularly vivid and dramatic, such as His telling of parable stories based on everyday lives, His dramatic miracles, His terribly cruel crucifixion, and His shocking resurrection. All these were historical events sharply imprinted in their minds so that they could write them up 30, 40, or 50 years later. Since they were often first hand observers of what happened, the stories are often captured in startling detail. Even great lawyers and Supreme Court justices, who are superbly trained to criticize historical evidences, attest to the authority and integrity of accounts of key dramatic events such as the resurrection of Christ, including the great Simon Greenleaf, a founder of the Harvard Law School.
毫无疑问，越是激动人心的、越是生动的事件在大脑中留下的印象越是深刻、越是翔实。我认为这就是为什么早年的使徒写下的许多福音故事和基督教义如此生动和扣人心弦，比如日常生活中基督所讲的比喻，他施的神迹，他受到的惨烈折磨和他震惊世人的复活。这些基于史实的事件深深的印在使徒们的脑海，尽管30年，40年，50年过去了，他们仍能毫厘不差的记下来。他们往往亲历了那些事件，所以故事才眉目清晰、细节毕据。甚至包括伟大的哈佛法学院的缔造者Simon Greenleaf 在内的许多大律师、大法官，尽管他们经过专门培训去批判历史史实，但是他们还是证实了诸如基督复活在内的诸多重大事件的权威性和完整性。
It’s only recently that I discovered that this category of writing that I’m engaged in is called “creative nonfiction,” which means that I will write real stories from memories of real experiences (hence, “non-fiction”), and where creativity comes in putting the story together in as interesting a light as possible, but never tampering with the facts. Interpretations, explanations and context provide some of the creative component to make the writing especially interesting, and add a personal touch to the story. The interpretations of course might vary; for example if two people were in the same event, their perspective is often different. My wife Esther says that often my interpretation of an event that involves her, is not the same as her interpretation! (See my Uncle Reggie Stories: Making an Impression). Which sounds quite reasonable, and maybe I should write stories from her perspective also. That would give a complementary view of events, just like there are four Gospels looking at events from somewhat different perspectives, but sticking with the facts.
直到最近我才知道我我正在进行的系列写作的风格被专业写手称为“creative non-fiction，原创纪实散文”，我从我亲身经历来写真实的故事, 我的创造只是把这些故事用尽可能引人入胜的方法串联起来，从不改变事实。描述、解释和语境提供了创造性的元素让写作更加有趣，也在故事中添加了一些个人的感触。当然表达会有变化，例如两个人在同一件事上都会有不同的看法。我的太太Esther说她有时候也参与其中的事情我的描述就和她的不同！（参阅Reggie叔叔的故事：reggietales.org留下印象）。这是理所当然的，也许我也应该从她的角度写文章。这就给事件以补充的观点，正如圣经有四篇福音故事从不同的角度来观察事件，但都紧贴事实。
If it were not for this funny brain, none of this writing would be possible, so I’m immensely thankful for this brain, that is continually buzzing and sending off fantastic infinite electrical signals, and that has deep storage of gaza-zillion wonderful memory files, waiting to be discovered and dug up and sent to my desktop for editing. You can add to, or help prompt this frenzy of signals by reminding me of great stories the next time we have coffee.