Frank Thoughts: The Beehive of Our Brain
Dave Canal
April 15, 2020

Years ago, I was randomly changing television channels when suddenly, I saw something extraordinary. A young boy was standing with his back to a cathedral in Paris. There was an artist’s palette behind him. Then a voice said, “Now turn around.” The boy turned, stared at the medieval cathedral for a moment, then turned again with his back to the cathedral and drew the church with all its myriad iconic detail.  His precision was astonishing. The voice then softly said, “The boy is autistic and gifted.” Later, I realized we all have a gift.

From that moment on, I understood why a friend, who is an Alzheimer researcher, once said to me, “The brain is the last frontier of medicine. For all of our medical accomplishments, we are ignorant of how the brain really works.” At the moment, after 105 different clinical trials for compounds to treat Alzheimer, all have failed which proves his point. All were based on “attacking” the white amyloid plaque buildup in an aging brain. A buildup that, supposedly, makes it difficult for neurons to communicate with each other. At least, that has been the overwhelming theory behind the research.

But so far, after years of effort, it is a failed theory. Consider this: have you ever walked down a street and seen someone you’ve known your whole life when, suddenly, you realize you cannot remember their name? Worse, the harder you try, the more you cannot. It’s as though a giant overhead steel door has come down over your conscious brain and your subconscious will not give up the name. You have to think of something completely unrelated before the “overhead door “goes up and you have the name. To me, it explains why creative people have addiction problems. The alcohol, or whatever drug they use, releases the overhead door so their subconscious can remember and create.

This steel “door” that blocks memory, led me to start thinking of the brain in terms of a beehive metaphor. A beehive is a structure with over 100,000 separate hexagonal cells made of wax. The bees store honey in a cell for themselves and their larvae to survive the winter. Each of us has his own honeycomb in our brain which helps us to survive. Some have a cell of quantitative intelligence as did John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) or Einstein. Others are more right brain gifted such as Yo-Yo Ma or Ernest Hemingway. Sadly, they often pay a price for their “gift” as John Nash and Hemingway did with suicide. But each of us has a cell in a comb that is unique. It’s our job to identify it.

This uniqueness – each of us having a different intelligence or skillset in the beehive of humanity – is what has made our economy the greatest in the world. Different ethnicities, backgrounds and ages, bring different skills to bear on society as a whole. It’s the same reason the Boston Consulting Group has teams comprised of individuals from all backgrounds. This diversity is the genesis of our creating the most successful economy in the world. Having spent many years working for investment banking firms, I have met countless entrepreneurs.  One, invariably, becomes the public image of the company. But they are ALL partners in their beehive. Each one has a different contributing skill he brings to the hive. The key to success, as Joseph Campbell once said, is to “Find your passion.”

-Francis Patrick Boland

Read more