Out of the Gray: A Concerto for Neurons and Synapses is the unusual story of love between a gorgeous neuroscientist and a social scientist who feverishly tries to master neuroscience before he loses his mind to an early dementia. The novel explores the mind, consciousness, conscience, memory, biochemistry of love, and happiness, sexuality in all its manifestations in nature, mental illness, and the relationship between the artificial and biological consciousness. The origin of God in human mind is explored to the delight of believers and none-believers alike. The wit embedded in exhilarations, the anxieties and the gloom of characters will induce even a reader with a heart of stone, to laugh and/or to shed tears. Juices of life will flow Out of the Gray and ferment into a cosmic cocktail. Manoucher Parvin, widely known as a polymath, has published novels, poetry, short stories and numerous works in various fields of sciences, history, engineering and chess. This is his fifth novel.
EXCERPT FROM PROLOGUE
I am a part of all that exists
When I look
Existence looks at itself
When I think
Existence reflects in my mind
When I speak
Existence speaks to itself
When I live
Existence proves it is alive
-- From Professor Pirooz’ poem “Lecture to the Void.”
Eternity and infinity are shrunk to a point. Existence is waiting to become. God has gone home, apparently taking my soul with Him as a souvenir.
Time is absent. Space is vacant. Sounds silenced. Motions stilled. Death is as good as dead. What exists is colorless, odorless, tasteless, shapeless, and painless. I feel like nothing. But how can that be, if nothingness has no feelings?
Suddenly Space cracks open like an egg. Time hatches. Its heart is palpitating. Its stubby wet wings are flapping. I am becoming conscious. So Existence is becoming more conscious. Oh, that is what is happening in the world’s mind—my mind here and now.
A pale sun no bigger than a light bulb hangs above me. Ghosts with frigid grimaces flow in and out of foggy mausoleum walls. I have no thoughts. No memories. Suddenly, a clock’s hand, black and slender like the tongue of a snake, pounces on the next second, as if on a hapless gnat. The Great Here and Now is born. I am relieved. I am more than a nothing! The clock shows it, pouncing and pouncing. The ghosts show it, their grimaces turning upside down into cautious smiles. And now I begin to sense that I sense, and so now Existence begins to sense itself through me as it senses itself through other minds.
I exist. But where? In what form? In whose time and space? And in whose mind? Am I what I used to be? The middle-aged professor named Fereydoon Pirooz? Do I still have my chocolate-brown eyes? My mustache? Whose unruly ends spring up like two happy caterpillars when I grin? Am I where I used to be? In Ohio? On the great island of infinite mysteries called America? Is it still when I used to be? When the twentieth century was gone and the twenty first century was just an infant? And am I how I used to be? A troubled soul always in trouble for the troubles I’ve brought upon myself? Is my soul the same soul, even though it was kidnapped by the unknown indefinable or abandoned by the known indefinable—God?”
My questions, though unanswerable at the moment, give me hope. I am a part of what exists so my
Questioning is the inquisitiveness of Existence about Existence
The unbearable silence impels me to ask the ghosts: “Am I Professor Pirooz or am I the small, happy sparrow I once dreamed of being? So I could ride the updraft to the highest peaks of understanding?” I hear no answers; though I do see their lips move. So, language exists, but sounds are dead. Perhaps then I am not a happy sparrow, but a miserable magpie, punished for talking too much in my former life. Oh, I do think! How astonishing those mindless atoms ascended from inertness create this illusion of selfhood and free will.
Thinking is Existence pondering Existence.
I open my eyes as wide as I can, to see the entire world at once. I see the ghosts crowding around me, like students around a science experiment. So I do see. And I do hear voices. And I do smell a familiar perfume.
I touch my face. The familiar ups and downs are there. In my mind I taste saltiness. Sourness. Sweetness. As if tastes were life, as if each taste was a separate sense. Colors come back to me one by one. Red for stop, yellow for caution, and green for go. All colors blend into a rainbow of hope. My ears remember what it means to hear, they remember the sounds of the music I love to hear. My nose recalls what it means to smell, to stroll in a flower garden of delights. My fingers touch everything and nothing. My skin feels as if I was just born, born into a better world than the one I left. Is my mind creating reality? Or is reality creating my mind? Are the two facing each other in a hidden warped mirror?
If I appreciate Existence, then Existence appreciates itself.
Gradually I become fully conscious, as if I were the first African ape who uttered the fateful words: “I am me and there exists a not-me.” Mustering all of the strength I have, I shout a whisper:
“Am I on the life side or the death side?”
“On the life side,” a voice answers. “In the hospital.”
“And am I the same Pirooz?”
“For better or worse, yes.”
Now I feel someone holding my hand. The touch is so reassuring that I know I will always remember it, as if I were experiencing love for the first time:
Love is the ethos of Existence.
The joy of being alive resurrects my wit. To the one who is holding my hand I say, “I am dead, but how are you?”
The ghosts giggle like girls at a slumber party. Suddenly lights, sounds, thoughts and dreads flood my consciousness like a Boy Scout bugle awakening and greeting a new sunrise. I cannot be dead since the dead do not ask if they are dead. Is not the extent of being alive the extent of being conscious in some unexplainable sense, or logic?
A ghost in a green coat metamorphoses into a doctor. She touches my forehead and says: “I love you, Pirooz.” Was she the one who held my hand just a minute before? I wonder why she is crying. Doctors do not cry when their patients die. They don’t have that many tears to waste. Death is like rain to them. They open up an umbrella, hide under it, and go on. Is she a woman I know? The one whom I died for without dying?
The other ghosts metamorphose into nurses. The sky solidifies into the tiled ceiling of an intensive care room. Although plastic tubes are growing from my arms like the tendrils on a sweet pea plant, no liquid is trickling through them. My curiosity and anxiety grow. My consciousness awakens. Am I not worth being saved? Or have I already been saved? I tell myself this:
Consciousness is the mystery of Existence.
But then I immediately disagree with myself! (I am used to this self-contradiction affliction of mine.) My gradual awakening seems to illustrate that my abilities and disabilities define my consciousness. I keep awaking and awaring until a frightening remembrance rushes to me.
“Did I try to kill myself?” I ask.
“Yes,” says the doctor. “You certainly did.”
Death is a black hole. It sucks everything into its dark, inescapable vortex. One day the sky will be the graveyard of dead stars. Dead planets, dead faiths and dead gods and dead souls. Oh, how I hope I’m wrong—inasmuch as it appears I’ve just been given a second chance.
Has near death turned me into a stranger I must get to know? Is this a resurrection? Souls are not made of stone. But are they like putty? Malleable? Oh, I am analyzing and synthesizing. Like a spider spinning a web, I am bridging not-knowing to knowing, bridging knowing to more-knowing, de-spanning and re-spanning spaces, times, and ideas over and over again.
As these involuntary thoughts flood my awakening consciousness, I notice how beautiful the doctor at my bedside is. How exhilarating it is to catch a glimpse of her. Reality is not all pain. Oh, I discern beauty and I appreciate
beauty. So then,
Appreciation is the narcissism of Existence.
How beautiful consciousness is, and how tragic that it is burdened by its self-generated and self-inflicted falsehoods. So,
Falsehoods are the delusions of Existence.
The doctor looks so familiar. Electro-biochemical signals stir in my brain and become a question I keep to myself: Who is this woman? And why is there so much joy and hope in her teary eyes?”
It occurs to me that my mind has its own mind. That my choices originate from my unconscious—if not, who or what made me crawl to my medicine cabinet, search for the unopened bottle of sleeping pills, and struggle to open it? Who forced me to go inside my red Toyota, to hear Chopin’s Funeral March in my mind, to wash down the sleeping pills with pomegranate juice, to close my eyes, and to hold on to the steering wheel while imagining I am about to go to places I have never been before—all of this without even turning on the ignition key.
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