I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading nonfiction about language and neuroscience. This is a not an indictment of said nonfiction. This is not me scoffing at the author and his conclusions. This is me telling you that Danny Nemu's "Neuro-Apocalypse" made me LOL several times because it has some personality to it. Books about language and neuroscience tend to be a bit dry, ya know.
I talked with Danny recently (interview here). To say he has some personality to him is like saying Elton John plays the piano. It's true, but it's a serious undersell. And like Elton, Danny has another dimension to him. Elton plays piano, sure, but he's a master composer and has a commanding stage presence. Danny not only also commands the stage, he's also smart and thoughtful and composes a hell of a piece of psychedelia in his own right. Both seem to share an affinity for nifty wardrobes too.
"Neuro-Apocalypse" is the second part of a trilogy, after 2014's "Science Revealed". Yes, it's about language and neuroscience. More specifically, it's about how language shapes human consciousness and evolution. It weaves together relevant personal anecdotes and experiences, radical interpretations of biblical myth and firm neuroscience on the rather flexible state of the human brain. It's dreamlike, and it's wonderful, and it's one of the more entertaining and informative books I've read on the subjects, both of which (language and neuroscience) I've had a lifelong interest in.
I think it's the language itself here, to be honest. Dreamlike, yes, but that's sort of a lazy way to describe Danny's writing. There's a fluidity to it. It glides. But I don't know if that description is any better.
Most folks who interview Danny about this book focus almost exclusively on ayahuasca or the topic of drugs in the Bible. That's one of those radical interpretations (or the radical interpretation) I mentioned, and it's definitely worthy of discussion. Our conversation was a bit different, as you'll hear. Speaking as a guy interested more in language and neuroscience than psychedelics, it had to be.
Don't get it twisted, though: I find pyschedelia to be of great importance. I wish we talked about it more in living rooms and back porches than internet forums. I'd also love a good mushroom trip right about now. But there's something much more fascinating to me in this book - and Danny's work at-large - than what may have really been growing in the Garden of Eden.
Maybe it's my personal bias. I tend to believe the human brain contains within it every known and as-yet-unknown experience imaginable. Psychedelics can help deliver those experiences, sure, but it's the vessel itself that's built for the journey, not the water in which it floats. That seems to be an overlooked or underappreciated aspect of our experience here.
Most folks who hear Danny speak about this book will pick it up, I imagine, for the drugs-in-the-Bible angle, or even the neuroplasticity angle. Fair enough. That's all I knew about it prior to reading it myself. But I stayed for things like the crash course in Japanese culture and the many, many witticisms embedded throughout.
"Neuro-Apocalypse" is available from Psychedelic Press here.