I first read Jitterbug Perfume midway through undergrad. In fact, I think I may have read it while studying abroad in Ecuador (which feels relevant to me, but reminiscing about why would probably lead me way off topic). I just finished rereading it, and those of you familiar with my artwork, particularly those who have hypothesized with me about the ways my paintings evoke plantlike forms yet simultaneously seem biological on a more microscopic level (neural synapses, DNA, fungal spores, etc), will have a unique understanding of the brain-spasm I had when I reached this section.
This is a portion of Dannyboy’s Theory (Where We Are Going and Why It Smells the Way It Does) which is summarized near the end of the final section of Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (emphasis his):
“Even prior to the mysterious appearance of the neocortex, our brains had strong floral characteristics. The whole brain is described in science as a bulb. The neurons of which it is composed have dendrites: roots and branches. The cerebellum consists of a large mass of closely packed folia, which are bundles of nerve cells described in the literature as leaflike. Not only do the individual neurons closely resemble plants or flowers, the brain itself looks like a botanical specimen. It has a stem, and a crown that unfolds, in embryonic growth, much in the manner of a petaled rose.
In the telencephalon—the new brain—the floral similarity increases. Its nerve fibers divide indefinitely, like the branches of a tree. This process is called, appropriately, arborization. In the proliferation of those twiggy fibers, tiny deposits of neuromelanin are cast off like seeds. The neuromelanin seeds apparently are the major organizing molecules in the brain. They link up with glial cells to regulate the firing of nerve cells. When we think, when we originate creative ideas, a literal blossoming is taking place. A brain entertaining insights is physically similar, say, to a jasmine bush blooming.” – Tom Robbins
The question is, did this bizarre passage sink into my own “floral” brain on some subconscious level, only to begin oozing out a few years later in the weird little ink drawings that evolved into the work I’m doing now? Or is it purely coincidental? My naïve 21 year old consciousness probably flew right past it, more interested in knowing whether Alobar and Kudra would be reunited, and I am only now truly able to understand the significance of this brain-flower metaphor on the cusp of turning 30.