Blue Mind Illumination

These are two of my favorite quotes. The kind that stick with me and bubble up frequently:

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
         - Jacques Cousteau
“The cure for anything is salt water.”
         - Isak Dinesen

In the world of science, which has been my scholarly and professional domain for three decades, words like these are reserved for keynotes, postscripts, and plaques. Used publicly, such sappy sentimentalities regularly evoke cynical eye-rolling.

But what did Captain Cousteau and Ms. Blixen (Dinesen was her pen name) mean when they wrote them? Were they being literal, poetic, or both? Were they wonderfully prescient or merely passionate?

Chances are, if you are still reading this, you’re much like me. We’ve been put under that aqueous spell, found wonder, and healed ourselves through water. And if I asked you if those personal experiences required scientific verification you’d poke me in my cynical little eyeball.

I’d also wager that if such explanations were available, you—like me—would let your curiosity pull you in for an exploratory journey. If cognitive scientists, neuropsychologists, and physiologists held insights about cognitive benefits related to our love of water, we’d want them.

Some might argue that exploring the science of wonder, joy, love, and awe diminishes its experience. For me it’s just the opposite—inquiry grows the island of knowledge, which then offers longer beaches to explore.

So, over each of the past four years we have assembled top neuroscientists, explorers, big wave surfers, deep sea divers, musicians, writers, and educators in San Francisco, on the Outer Banks, Block Island, and the Cornish coast. Thrown together for three days, surrounded by water, and isolated from modern distractions, we’ve taken some deep dives into the topic known as “Blue Mind”.

Our simple goal has been to better understand “our brains on water” and to communicate what we find as widely as possible.

I won’t give it all away, and space won’t allow it, but suffice it to say the results from fMRI, EEG, and neurochemical studies are profound and surprising, with ramifications for conservationists, economists, architects, public health practitioners, athletes, travelers, educators, and parents.

Karen and Jacques’ lasting words are thoroughly and scientifically defensible: the spells, wonderment, and cures of salubrious waters are indeed quite real.

Please join me on October 12th for IF Water, and let the eye-rolling cease and the teaching and Blue Mind illumination begin.

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, Senegalese Naturalist.

- Dr. Wallace J. Nichols - Scientist, marine biologist and author of the New York Times best seller, Blue Mind