Urology Pearls/When Bud met Mindy, things happened

Shahar Madjar, MD

Mindy and Bud were on their way to meet each other in the middle of the country. She told him that she was a psychology student in New York.

He was an engineering student who lived in Los Angeles. Bud consulted Google and made the calculation: the distance between them was 2,845 miles, and the middle of the road fell along I-80 in Waco, Neb., population 236.

There were no restaurants in Waco, but Chez Bubba Cafe in Goehner was close by and got good reviews. Besides, it was a kind of a place whose name stirs the imagination with curious questions such as who is Chez Bubba and how did he end up in Nebraska.

Mindy and Bud’s relationship had begun two months prior. It was a Wednesday evening and therefore Bud was working on his upper body at the gym. He followed a strict, high-protein diet, and a body building program called “muscle confusion.” He worked his biceps and then his triceps, his pectoralis major and his latissimus dorsi muscles. He did pushups and lifted weights. And when he checked his reflection in the mirror, he concluded that his muscles must have been well confused and that he wasn’t in bad shape after all.

Back at home, he took a shower and did his homework, answering some questions in Mechanical Physics. Then, he sat in front of the TV and searched the internet for “building a better body.” One thing led to another, and he found himself on Reddit.com, in the philosophy section called “Mind and Body.”

A girl, Mindy, posted a question: “I am interested in the mind-body problem. I have read about it, quite a lot honestly, but I am still confused. I wonder if there is someone out there, preferably a non-philosopher, who can solve the problem in simple terms.”

Bud was intrigued. He continued to read Mindy’s post: “The problem goes something like that: when I play the piano, for example, my fingers move along the keyboard. This movement takes place in the physical world. Physicists and mathematicians can measure the movements of my fingers in physical terms such as how fast my fingers move and what distance they make. Biologists can explain how the muscle cells in my fingers contract and relax. Neurologists can measure action potentials along the nerves that innervate my fingers. Radiologists can take images of my brain and show areas that lit-up while I am playing the piano.

“The problem is: how does my desire to play the piano and the commands my mind gives my fingers translate into the movement my fingers make? Is my mind separate from my body, and if so, where does the connection between the mind and body take place?

“And in a similar way,” Mindy continued, “when I listen to music, I hear it, I experience it, I feel it! I feel sadness when the music turns melancholic and happiness when the music is joyful. Scientists can measure the sound waves, describe the mechanical properties of the ear as an instrument of hearing, measure the impulses traveling through my inner ear and onto my brain, and even indicate the areas where cells in my brain are lit-up in response to sound. But how I experience music — the joy I draw from it, the emotions it evokes in me — these exist in my private world only, in my own mind.

“And the problem is:” Mindy continued, “how do sound waves in the physical world translate into my experience of music? Is my body separate from my mind, and if so, where does the connection between the body and mind takes place?”

Bud thought that Mindy is cool, really cool. “I think that your mind and body are one,” he wrote. “I could never understand the fascination scientists have with the brain. I say: It is a substance like all substances are — made of atoms and molecules. Computers made of copper, lead, gold and plastic can already win chess championships, and drive a car in cities and along highways. Give me time, money, and a bunch of dedicated computer-scientists and I promise to build a computer, made of atoms and molecules, that would work exactly like your brain does: it will think, be aware of its own existence, experience joy, and feel pain. It might even fall in love with you! The mind — body problem is not a problem, it is just an illusion. And, by the way,” Bud added, “do you really play the piano? I would love to listen.”

Over the next several weeks, Mindy and Bud continued their conversation, first on Reddit, and then via email.

“I still believe in the immaterial soul,” Mindy wrote, “and in the mystery our mind is. Perhaps I could convince you if we ever met.”

“Dear Mindy,” Bud wrote, “why wouldn’t we meet? It would be an adventure. We could drive toward each other (I made the exact calculation) and meet in the middle of the road, just next to Waco, Neb.,, at Chez Bubba Cafe.

To be continued.

Editor’s note: Dr. Shahar Madjar is a urologist working in several locations in the Upper Peninsula. Contact him at smadjar@yahoo.com or at DrMadjar.com.