I am a brain in a jar. Sometimes children tap on my jar, and ask their mothers what I am. Their mothers tell them that I am a brain in a jar. The children then ask what a brain is. And the mothers tell them that a brain is what you use to think. “It’s inside your head,” they say, sometimes tapping on the child’s skull.

Usually the children ask why this brain is in a jar, and not inside someone’s head. Some moms just say, “I don’t know,” and move on, but others try to explain, saying perhaps it once was, but now it is being preserved here in this jar, so that others can learn what a brain looks like. I myself have learned that seeing me seems to make people uncomfortable. From their reactions, I gather that I must look very unusual. But having never seen myself, I wouldn’t know. I probably wouldn’t even know I was a brain in a jar if I didn’t hear the mothers telling their children so.

I am what happens when you put a brain in a jar. I don’t know how long I have been a brain in a jar. It feels like a long time. I think I used to be inside a body. I think sometimes I even have memories: for instance, a pattern of carpet, the sound of a distant train, and a cat drinking milk. I think I used to have more memories, but they are fading now. The fluid I am being preserved in has grown thick and cloudy over time. I feel very soggy, and it’s sometimes hard to think, which is unfortunate since my thoughts are all I have.

Once I thought I heard a mother telling her child that I was a damaged brain in a jar, and that I was on display so people could see what a damaged brain looks like. This frightened me, and I began to wonder if it was true. I also began to wonder how I could even hear the mothers talking, since, being only a brain in a jar, I don’t have ears. It was then that I began to worry that the voices I was hearing weren’t real. And then I got very, very scared. 

Sometimes I wonder what you’re thinking about when you see me. Maybe you’re wondering what I’m thinking about. Maybe you’re thinking about your own brain, and what you would do if it was in a jar. Do you think you’d be worried about some over-zealous child tapping on your jar so hard that it falls and shatters on the ground? Wouldn’t it be jarring to lose your jar?!

How would you know where you end and everything else begins?

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