Brain Crush

I heard the phrase a few years ago when a young student sidled up to my husband at an event we were attending, stretched out his arm and offered his hand, saying, ‘I am so pleased to meet you, I have had a brain crush on you for years.’  What does one say in such an instance?  I gaped, enjoying this new phrase and working out quickly that it was nothing to do with looks or availability, for this was simply a young, ebullient, candid student, keen to be inspired along the path of study he had chosen, and not at all shy to meet his muse.  My husband seemed as unnerved by it as I was delighted.

Now, every so often, usually when I am lying in the dark at night, listening to the radio, a voice spools from my left, commanding my full attention and I enjoy whispering to myself with a giggle: ‘Brain crush alert!’  Lately it has been Ben Okri reading his own poetry.  It is a well-known fact that being able to write wonderful poetry does not go hand in hand with an ability to read it (recordings of W.B. Yeats reading his own work, anyone?  Don’t go there – it will crush your brain crush!).  Okri both writes and reads poetry beautifully.  Of course, the object of one’s brain crush will depend on one’s interests.  Perhaps you are nine years old and your current brain crush is uncle C. because of his ability to talk interminably – without pause, not coming up or air – about black holes. In which case it may not be a lasting brain crush, for (beware, all brain crush recipients) such affection can be fickle and passing.

I had a brain crush on Thomas Hardy’s novels until I craved a happy-ever-after ending and capriciously dropped him, impulsively bouncing my brain crush elsewhere – to whom I can no longer remember.  Your brain crush might be a philosopher, a particle physicist, or the old man down the road who can tell you the name of every bird by listening only to its song lightly piping from a hedge.  He or she might be alive or dead, celebrated or unknown, basking in the glory or shrugging off the accolade; but the main thing is that we should not cower in fear of our brain crush, not feel belittled or diminished by his or her skill but inspired and expanded and stilled.

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