Encephalon | Issue 01

Page 1

Art & Neuroscience Journal


The Encephalon Art & Neurosciencecience Journal 2023

The Encephalon is a youth-led journal at the intersection of art and science. We are devoted to publishing and honoring the voice, originality, and craft of aspiring writers, artists, and scientists worldwide. ©2023

Rachel Coyne untitled

MASTHEAD Editors Norah Nguyen Isabelle Iloreta Anshi Purohit Sonja Xie Jasleen Bajaj Cover Art Rachel Coyne Untitled



Rachel Coyne | Untitled


Julia Sheridan | Broken Wings


Raymond Liu | Imipolex Man


Rainey Peng | Slumber Dream



The Girl With the Pin in Her Left Arm | Aisea Solidum


I Miss You When in Want, Not in Need | Ashton Palmer


Himalayan Meditation | Isaac Richards


The Transitions | Raymond Liu


This | Tiffany Troy


Men Are From Mars, and Women Too | Patricia Zhang


Broken-hearted Brain | Kayla Tougas


The Starry Night Has Bars Across It | Maryam Majid




Julia Sheridan broken wings

the girl with the pin in her left arm Aisea Solidum


remember a little girl who grew up with a pin in her left arm. She wasn’t born with it, although it did seem like she had to

have been. That girl was someone I used to know really closely and from my earliest memory of her, I think that that pin was always there — no matter what sleeves she wore to cover it up. So I guess I always

Remembering it now, I never really got a good look at what it actually was, or even if it was physically real, even with the fact that we were really, truly close (from what other people who remember say). One thing I know for certain was that whatever that thing was, it really was there from how much it showed in that girl. I think I can even picture it now: Her eyes a constant red with darkened circles around them to match; The pale-ish hands that came out turtle-like from her coat cuffs always being accompanied by puppylike tremble; Even just the way her hair itself swept and fell in the outside wind. Every single thing about her seemed wrong. But she herself wasn't wrong at all. It was all because of that thing in that left arm of hers. Nonetheless, this girl who grew up with a pin in her left arm, reddened eyes, underlying circles to match, two shivering hands, and some hair with a mind of its own, was someone whom I had once called a friend. Although I didn’t know it then, I heard from some close family friends of hers, the pin may have been a mark of her father — that ‘daddy’ of hers, as I remember she always called him. When I was first told, I chalked it all up to be pure speculation.




knew it to be there. In her left arm. That thorn under her skin. Or

I remember her, and I remember the talk everyone at one time had about that ‘daddy’ of hers. And from what I remember everyone saying, that man “had made himself out to be a well respected man”. This was how he was known in our family, the neighbor’s family, and the other neighbor’s family. This man, whose stories were told at Sunday dinner tables and mentioned in pastor homilies, solidified him as the stuff of legends, and so who I thought him to be, with the confidence of what I know now, was completely skewed. I guess I can’t entirely blame those other parents and grandmas for my misinterpretation of this man. I really only knew him through talk and passing stories. I had never even met him to begin with. And I guess nothing of what was actually true or what was only heard made a difference for that girl. The pin still lay embedded in her left arm. The left arm of the daughter he placed it in. It was there that it stayed. The pin seemingly grew up with the girl. To anyone else, having a constant thorn in your side would be 10

an unusual nuisance but that girl wasn’t just ‘anyone else’. To her,


that pin in her left arm was just like any piercing a young girl her age would receive. The only thing different from a regular piercing was, of course, no one would deliberately stab into their arm, but also, no piercing ever hurt forever. But that one did. Growing up, the girl with the pin in her left arm was no stranger to its perpetual pain. In childhood, she excelled in school, something people would say was attributed to her father, yet on the playground, she itched with discomfort because of that constant thorn in her side. Like I said before, nothing was inherently wrong with that girl. The pin that stuck deep into her was all but a pin: A single flaw that ‘messed’ with her so cruelly. And, like I said before, this girl was someone I had once known and someone I had known to be perfect, save for that single flaw. Everyone would have known this too, knowing the father that raised her. Yet, the one thing no one knew growing up was that that pin in the left arm of hers would, inevitably, be the cause of her own downfall: It was, as natural for every person — yet so peculiar in her case — destined to be that unique fatal flaw of hers. By the time she was able to make her own decisions, she thought that the pin that always stuck into her left arm would be

easy enough to remove. And so by the time she graduated from her childhood, from the life she had under her daddy, she decided to take that pin and pull it out from under her skin, effectively choosing to leave it all behind her. That pin, or thorn, or thumbtack, or wedge was something so small to her now. She thought she had grown up to take on this seemingly minuscule pain in her side but that pin was no ordinary hurt. All those years — that eighteen-year darkness digging into her — rooted itself. The pin itself didn’t grow but as she grew into the young woman she became leaving for college, that tiny prick burrowed deeper and deeper under the skin to the point that, at times, it wasn’t noticeable any more. Still, there it sat, unable to disappear where, at times, it would fade into her. Yet, occasionally some meticulous little movement would relapse her into the throws of the indescribable pain that she had just started getting used to. It disturbed her core. It itched into her bones. It screwed with her.

her. From what I can recall, not with my best confidence though, I don’t think she was aware of these facts. Maybe she was: I’d say that I knew her well enough that there could have been that possibility. Nonetheless, she was willing to take that chance. And so she did. The evening she packed her final box for college, the evening of her final goodbye to the place she had known so familiar to her, the goodbye to the loving and perfect daddy of hers, she sat on that cute little bed in the middle of the half-empty room of hers, facing the open window as she twiddled the pin in her left arm. As she felt it with her fingertips, she really believed that that very day, she would truly be free. Compelling as it was, with the breeze past the open window ushering her initiative and the things of hers packed away whispering from their cells, one small yank was all she needed to do; She grasped it. Right when she felt the bulb of the pin upon her fingertips, right when she was so ready to pull up, it too whispered something unspeakable. The pin, its own entity now, asked her, “Who are you without


in reality, a stab wound that, once removed, could inevitably end


What she had thought to be some fixable mistake in her arm was,

me? What else are you besides me?” It pushed further. “I am all that you’ve ever known yourself to be,” it teased. “Without me, you are nothing.” It was a voice so faint, radiating from her arm, persisting with its prodding. “What will you be left with?” This faint voice, one she had heard her whole entire life, the only voice who ever told her what to do, reverberated in her, causing her to tremble like the little girl she once was — the little girl she had been and forever will be. She shook with indescribable terror at its words, words she had known throughout her life, ones that only now resurfaced in their full magnitude. The words of her daddy. Quaking, fingers still gripped to the end of the pin in her left arm, she slipped her grasp suddenly. In the blink of an eye, what she was left with was nothing but a horrible and ugly gash along the underside of her forearm where the pin had been, a tear zigzagged across it. The blood rushed in, a geyser of all that the pin had welled up inside her, the pin that now laid inanimate on the floor. At her, it 12



Peering down at her arm, she was no longer “the girl with a pin in her left arm” — and at the moment she realized it completely, she regretted it. The pin, now at her feet, was chuckling, and it uttered one last thing: “See?” No one’s to say what really unfolded in that room: Whether the pin was even physically real is still up to question. What I know for sure was that girl, the girl who thought she would become something other than that pin in her, held onto it and from then on, it stayed with her. Whether it was embedded in her or not anymore, its weight was still palpable, uphased at her puny attempt to get rid of it. The evening she packed her final box for college, she packed up that pin with her, unable to leave the disgustingly painful comfort it provided in her. And so, this pin, this unmistakable flaw of hers, one so unfixable, left her home with her. After that day, I never really knew what happened in those following years. She led life as normal, from all I can assume, and from what stories I heard of her being passed and told by extended relatives and family friends, she got married just fine. There were

mentions here and there of the things she did and the places she saw, but never really a bigger picture that I myself can remember with confidence. You’d think that when knowing this person your whole life there would be nothing else to learn about her with all the stories you hear. But I guess that’s not really true. What’s true is that the girl never changed. She still held onto the girl she was in her childhood; She held onto who she was when that pin was still stuck inside of her. Believe me, she was as much that girl as she was the person she became. I know her now, and from what I heard, I believe that I can say that I knew her then. Nothing changes the fact that I knew her all my life even if she didn’t know me all hers, but how I came to see her has changed from the person I saw her as when I was younger. You learn the bigger picture, or enough of it that things start to become clear. This person who was your “friend” in childhood — the person people make remarks about because of how “close you

way she is. And why you became the way you became. All those nights no one saw how vacant she was and all those times people didn’t see that side of hers, you realize that everything makes sense, because you were the one that saw. You’re older now and you can see plain as day that this pin still lives in her left arm, even when the past has long gone by. Your grandfather died too many years ago for you to remember him yet his voice still echoes in that daughter of his. Your mother is still her daddy’s girl, the very same one, and everyone else still says the same things that you already knew: She is still the girl with the pin in her left arm, her father was perfect, and you knew her so close your entire life. Some things never change, or rather, some things just can’t be changed. Every story I heard and every single mention of my mother’s name, in the end, stuck with me. Who she was was never again the same person I had known her to be and what that made me become, from all the stories I heard, all the details everyone told me, and all the things I never learned until now, made me become just like her. I am my mother’s daughter, as she was her father’s. And just like her, I guess I also grew a pin in my left arm.


the things that were wrong with your own mother and why she is the


two were” — none of it stays the same when you finally understand

i miss you when in want, not in need Ashton Palmer

I’d expect nothing more than an empty, placid stare by now — how long has it been? Maybe a year, soon a few, where I have throbbing headaches in your memory. Often I think, if I see you again, would I bleed through 14

bones I’ve hardened in thought? Or melt to merge a singular heartbeat?


I left you in sludge at that train stop, even if we did wear cotton scarves for three more months — I planned to end it then. So the marrow blooms sprouted; course & heavy, aching for our beginnings of bleeding red to gush from older scabs. But in my sense, I felt a scar from our relationship had already formed; there was no need to pick at it now — you needed to heal too, without me. “A leaver, not a fighter.” Hardly a lover — I’m cowardly that way.

himalayan meditation Isaac Richards

Today / you will experience / all four (blurry) seasons and the (incomplete) circle / of life. Get comfortable on a warm stone / the near vertigo of the slope / leaning like a markhor / your guru to this guise of symmetry horns spiraling like a helix of DNA / illusion / of bearded wisdom and confidence—he’s frantic / agile between

offspring from the rock / and toss it into the glacial river of oblivion / unnumbered / the spots on a snow leopard are a camouflage mirage of the sublime (beauty and terror) stripping meat from horn to hoof / leaving spots of blood in the snow / her flexibility as admirable as poetry / as contingent as the grip of her paw or maw / succumbing to age and entropy / dying / alone / in a cave / where moths will have the final say: a mouthful of delightful words dissolving like dust on microscopic tongues that live for a single day / when / more than atoms are eternal.


next to the golden eagle / about to pluck the markhor’s


paradoxes but always precarious / like meaning / perched

the transitions Raymond Liu


e are looking. The stars shatter. Perhaps it happens before

or after something else, or perhaps the light emanating from

one was a bastion for the others, or even still that their sentience was progenitor of a phalanx. Of course, lacking mid temporal lobes, it matters very little to them. They must know as much about themselves as Hoag’s object knows about Giotto and his circle. This latter paid too early his visit to Earth to have known Hoag, although one would like to believe that, had they inhabited the same century, they would’ve met over a communional beverage of some sort— the type that, living on American soil, Robin would be 9


years too young for. Although the figure would be closer to 6,


should he choose to bypass the dicier legalities, which is to say, all of them. It’s his birthday— the day Robin Haas crosses the precipice between 11 and 12. Not a single one of the onlookers realizes that he’s now at approximately an equidistant temporal length from the inception of Cuneiform and the invention of a chimeric pseudoperpetual motion machine. He has been there for his entire life. “—too many...” “It’s not.” “Well, then, where’s the cut-off? It’s got to stop eventually doesn’t it? I mean, when the hell would you stop, if not twelve? The numbered ones exist for a reason, don’t they?” “Depends on the size of the cake, which we clearly bought first. For Christ’s sake, it’s a ten-inch cake. God forbid I couldn’t place twelve candles on it.” Benno Haas is the one armed with an almost mistakeable-forbelligerent staccato of rhetorical. His wife Diane has been at his side long enough to understand a subtextual non-aggression; his habit spawns from an unbridled, almost childish curiosity, only

manifesting itself under a cloak of masculine stand-offishness. The two have spent the past 7 and a half minutes arguing about whether numerical or traditionally cylindrical candles should be used for a 12th birthday. It has devolved into a linguistic tennis match, the metric of victory being who can continue the longest. Robin himself is deeply entranced. His candles, the now forsaken subjects of conversation, have now dwindled to mere 2 centimeter stubs, bottom halves, mere remnants of their once regal numerical selves. The collision of wax dripping down the sides and cake frosting is dangerously imminent. He’s listening in on the debate, trying not to hear what either side is saying. This is a needlessly Herculean task; any sort of binary recognition nullifies his attention. He’d subconsciously like to believe that there are three distinct entities in front of him, not just a mother and father but whatever is between them, a drunkenly amorphous and airborne third thing. The snippets that he does unintentionally catch remind him of the

— that allows everything to recirculate back to themselves, but not before passing by some cosmic figures, large things relevant by virtue of their large-ness alone. For Robin, these are the stars. He’s old enough to know the concept of a universe, and to know that it shares the first three letters with ‘unite’. He will perhaps never be old enough to understand it. Everything is not a thing; and if it were, what would be the point of the prefix? This is the sort of mental excursion that earns him a congratulatory interjection from the nearest adult, while always seeming to elude their memories upon second mention, as well as— “Well, why don’t we just ask him then?” Equipped with an uncannily honed ability of recognizing when the conversation has set its sights on him, Robin speaks for the first time in eight minutes. “I like them both.” He’s met with two simultaneous glassy stares, and then a dual acquiescence. The situation is almost amusingly comparable to Mozart and Salieri’s attempts to impress Joseph II, a thought that none of the present figures have as of yet entertained.


exclusive to human beings long past the primordial need for survival


fourth: his cake. This, in turn, has the sort of bizarre domino effect

The rest of the celebrations continue so procedurally one could mistake them for industrial; and perhaps they are. The idea that whatever redemptive power is found in shooting stars might also be present in a birthday cake, the most universal of praying apparatuses, struck its yearly chord in Robin’s head. Then the reverberations follow him throughout the evening. Safely tucked into bed after completion of his nightly rituals(serene sleep somehow always found itself affiliated with the enjoyment of a popup book), he stares upward at his cot mobile, a miniaturized solar system never displaced since toddlerhood. Slumber seeping in, he’s content to watch and remark upon the grace of smooth elliptical orbits, the leisurely spinning without stutter of planets overhead. Then silence, interrupted only by soft snores, synonymous with the inception of whatever world he’s decamped to. It’s an illusory precipice to be standing at. The connection’s medium is there. Of course it is; it’s Robin himself. But the numbers — how one can be moving forward for 365.25 days and never fall 18

off until the very last moment... shrouded in whatever vapor makes


up the numbers in the first place. Whether the day is important because a rotation around the sun marks his numerical ascension, or whether he marks, as others do, the spot where the tellurian desire to pass by the same space again can be fulfilled— Anticipation has robbed this day of its grandeur. It is somewhat akin to being lost in the belly of the beast, realizing that its cavernous and absurdly unacidic interior is, in actuality, quite languorous. The elliptical path has been traced once more. Eons of submission to gravity’s oppression have ironed out the kinks in the system, aided by those who dwell on Earth’s body, who faithfully and happily accept their subjugation at the hands of centripetal force, going as far as to immortalize its power in numbers and candles and cakes and holidays and all sorts of things contiguous with the advent of a rotation. The Haas family is content to linger once more around a cake. This is a patisserie for which none of them share a particular enthusiasm. But its loss is unthinkable; what else would bind

together the years aside from Robin himself, who is far too human and fleshy and less-than-divine? At his newfound age of 13, he can remark the whole process’ congruence with the darning of holes in fabric, an act often pursued by his late grandmother. Robin has entered an age where he’s just about beginning to truly grasp concepts like irony, and symbols, but is struggling to differentiate between adjectives and adverbs at school. Lately he’s been pressured by his parents to read, which has led him down a rabbit hole of searching for the quote-on-quote “best books”, and has put a copy of Mann’s The Magic Mountain in his hands. His perambulation through the Swiss sanatorium and the Zauberberg itself has yielded about as much as one would expect a 12/13-year old to glean. But the notion of decaying men arguing about time, sickness and love retains an elusive allure, even when many of the words are far too polysyllabic for a little boy to devote himself to. He can’t help but think(although he certainly wouldn’t phrase it this

his teacher prattles on about are but mere acolytes of some grander truth. And truth itself, to his understanding naturally being “good” and sought after, makes people run about in a frenzy trying to chain down any vessels to it. As wisps of thought chisel their way through his brain, he blows out this year’s candles, who find themselves awkwardly arranged in the haphazard way in which one arranges any 13 objects on a circular surface. Cacophony illuminates the room. Perhaps its very act of bequeathing life to the air allows it to escape itself, forever nearing but never attaining the asymptotic status of polyphony. Robin would like to imagine that sounds could be jealous of each other. That they could experience an interaction beyond the horizon of simplistic constructive or destructive, which was all he understands at the moment. Robin is less than ensnared by the physics principles behind sound waves, moreso in their interconnectivity. In the same way that the miniature solar system of his first decade on Earth was irrevocably connected; the same way that the 14 candles on his cake seem to breathe in unison. This is his first birthday amongst


topics”, and that even the literary devices and technical terms that


way) that the book is just a proxy for those grand, “humongous

peers, which asserts in him an indeterminate feeling that the event has lost its intimacy, like a private ritual sacrosanct for its seclusion which has been broadcast on live television. His skills of observation have been sharpened to no end, having entered the age wherein one commits incessant acts of voyeurism behind sullen facades. Each of his acquaintances (a scarce few could be referred to as friends) are proving to be impossibly disparate. Try as he might, Robin is having monumental difficulty in weaving together a canvas with only ever-oscillating linens at his disposal. This in turn gives way to an unreasonably abstruse anguish, cut short by the occasional “Happy birthday, man,” or any one of the more memorable and unlikely interruptions. These interjections, analogous to a slightly unreliable, arthritic clockwork, remind him of the solemn ticking of lives, the lone candlesticks, one after another, paying their taxes and servitudes, then making their dejected departure. And there it is again, this skillful act of inattention to each and every child, allowing the locus 20

of attention to evaporate and uniformly project itself every which


way. That the intimacy could’ve been subconsciously misplaced rather than lost was not an apparition of his mind. That one could avoid being soft and fleshy and all the things he unavoidably was, that the fleeting seconds were his sanctuary rather than a celestial sin; that he could bear neither the tension of chords vibrating in unison with others nor the solitude of singularity. What was it...? A quote about connections missing by trillions of dark miles, by years of frozen silence? Or perhaps another about shattered stars, the primordial essence of which would never escape their unfortunate modality? Candles, cornflower in color, living and breathing their little lives away, an ultimate climax unbeknownst to them in the imminent fata morgana. Wispy thoughts inhabiting the minds of little children, yet to condensate into permanent residence. And yet here they were, coalesced into little sticks of wax, imbued with the power of myopia, bearing their sanctified history from time immemorial. We had begun with fire, and at the great foot of every year, each epoch, it is with fire that we end. He watches the smoke dissipate. It is languishing and contorting, but so is everything else. The transitions of years themselves are lost in

grander revolutions, and, for just a moment, he is struck with trepidation, filled with dismay at the lack of vacant seats in eternity, at the absence of chords strung on one instrument, save aboard



motion itself.

Raymond Liu imipolex man

this Tiffany Troy

I specialize in disappointing people I love, coughing behind closed doors because my sloth and mental weakness allowed the plague to fall. Master says, “Say something.” I try to mouth: “Why are you like this?” Master says, “Be clear, what is this?” 22

I say, “This,” as in “this,” gesticulating wildly


as he comes closer. I’m sad I’ll admit, being judged guilty too soon by a myopic god who’s fuming. But what excuse this time? All I want is for him to stop and leave me alone in the self-hate he has so successfully cultivated as I lay like a ragged doll on white linen I hate for being washable and hence salvageable. I raise my folded arms to cover my head but in truth my god needn’t strike. I’m dizzy enough by 8:20 from all the blank stares on Monday as I bide time to let down everyone who ever loved me.

Scientists have discovered how bright the universe is, but under the light panels I google, “What if I cannot do this aymore?” “Strong up,” Master texts me, but I do not know that yet, as I close my eyes to how alike I am to the uprooted roses, their blossoms the ashen color of dehydration. When the sun shines, I let out


as the lost doll I once treasured.


a hacking cough, my disposal as inevitable

men are from mars, and women too Patricia Zhang


hen we say “you're acting like a girl” or “be a man,” what do we mean? Gender may be the most significant divide, as

proclaimed by old philosophers, but men and women are not psychologically different. Simone De Beauvoir, in her revolutionary work titled “The Second Sex,” stated that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Men and women have been conditioned by a multitude of societal factors to seem unalike each other.


Additionally, if they were different, it does not pose any relevance.


arguments. Then I will explain how it does not matter if they were

In this essay, I will prove that men and women are psychologically the same by drawing from multiple studies and refuting opposing different, as giving it relevancy leads to discrimination and prejudice. The burning question in this debate is, “are women and men born different, or are they shaped this way by society?” Needless to say, there are apparent sex differences between those assigned male and female at birth. For example, a 2017 Stanford Medicine paper revealed that a man’s amygdala, a vital emotion center in the brain, is larger than a woman’s and works slightly differently. In general, however, it is redundant to say that sex differences correlate directly to gender differences (in this essay, I use the term “sex differences” to refer to biological differences, and “gender differences” to refer to personality differences). The role of biology isn’t zero, but it doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to suggest that gender differences result from sex differences. An article published by Harvard Business School explains, “while there are (of course) biological differences between the sexes, social science has shown

that men and women are more similar than different on a wide range of characteristics.” Thus, we can't just halt the debate on the grounds of biological differences. In 2001, a study published by personality researchers Paul Costa, Robert McCrae, and Antonio Terracciano encompassed over 23,000 men and women from 26 cultures and had them fill out personality questionnaires. The outcomes showed that women tended to rate themselves higher in aspects such as agreeableness while men rated themselves as more assertive. When a somewhat identical questionnaire was released in 2008, similar results emerged. These studies, on the surface level, seem to prove gender differences. Yet, there's a significant flaw in this research design. Participants were able to rate themselves, meaning that they could simply be providing answers that align with standard views of how women and men should act. Studies like these display how difficult determining noticeable differences are.

conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism) has failed to make a substantial impact; only minor differences have been found, and only on the basis that these differences could be relevant because they are also self-reported. Suffice to say, it isn't fair to infer that there are differences for certain. On the other hand, many studies attribute men and women to being the same psychologically. Janet Shibley Hyde, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, discovered that males and females from childhood to adulthood are more alike than different on most psychological variables. Across dozens of studies, Hyde discovered that this is consistent with the “gender similarities hypothesis,” which states that genders are more similar than dissimilar. Moreover, Hyde found that gender differences primarily relied on the context in which they were assessed. For instance, after participants in one experiment were told that they would not be identified as male or female and wore no identification, none conformed to stereotypes about their sex when given a chance to be aggressive. Oddly enough, the opposite happened - women acted more aggressively


differences in the Big 5 personality traits (openness,


Comparably, research attempting to demonstrate gender

than men. Hyde's studies also analyzed gender differences over a period of time. The resulting conclusion suggested that gender differences fluctuate with age and are thus not stable. Likewise, if men and women’s sex differences lead to colossal gender differences, where would transgender people fit into this argument? If, as researcher Paul Irving said, “men and women are almost different species,” this excludes transgender people and instead creates a narrative that since men and women are so different, it's impossible for a man to become a woman. This is contradictory to supporting transgender and non-binary people, and Hyde’s research shows that gender differences are not from sex differences. Costa's study, alongside other ones in a similar vein, seems to suggest extraordinary differences between men and women. Despite their research, it's hard to believe that women and men are so inherently different that it only makes sense for the woman to clean and the man to work. Yet, how exactly do men and women gain 26

knowledge about gender differences? To answer this, I want to turn to philosopher John Locke.


An interesting part of Locke's philosophy is his idea of the “tabula rasa.” The term “tabula rasa,” coined by Locke, means “blank slate” in Latin. Locke had an empirical view of knowledge, meaning he believed that we begin as blank slates and gain knowledge through experience. How women act differently from men and vice versa is adapted purely by this concept of knowledge through experience. Furthermore, that kind of insight is a posteriori knowledge. A posteriori knowledge is information dependent on evidence or experience. This is in contrast with a priori knowledge, which is defined by philosopher Immanuel Kant as “absolutely independent of all experience.” Gender differences are a posteriori knowledge, as they come from experience and evidence of the gender roles people must conform to, which will be proved in the following paragraph. The tabula rasa is essentially the famous nature vs nurture debate in psychology, showing how our awareness of gender roles being a posteriori knowledge relates to the psychology of men and women. Our a posteriori knowledge paints our blank slate, our tabula rasa, with a particular schema about how men and women

should act. This idea relates to De Beauvoir's “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” which means that biologically girls aren't born women but grow into them sociologically. It is neither nature or the sex assigned at birth that defines a girl or woman. In contrast, it is her emotional experiences and her a posteriori knowledge. Maltz and Borker proved this in 1982, with their research which showed that the games children play contribute to introducing children into masculine and feminine cultures. For example, girls playing house promotes personal relationships and having a family. Boys, conversely, tend to play more competitive team sports. This would go on to affect them as they grew up, their childhood games affecting their adulthood views. It's been established that women and men are psychologically the same yet appear different via socio-cultural influences. Then, where do we go from here? Should we acknowledge this or not? Despite the ubiquity of the “Men are from Mars and Women are from

different as popular media would continue to suggest, bringing these differences to the forefront would lead to continuous, everlasting prejudice. We can examine this using a hypothetical. If we were to conclude that different races were psychologically different (they aren't), then we would set roles for the various races. For example, if one race seems psychologically weaker, we would set the norm for that race to only work in specific fields. These norms lead to associations, prejudice, and discrimination, “that race can only do light work.” In the generations to come, anyone of that race who wants to step outside of that norm will instantly face ostracism for not adhering to the common heuristic of what that race should be doing. The hypothetical isn't exactly far-fetched either. Women have consistently and constantly been denied opportunities and success, and only in the 1920s could they even vote in America. This results from similar circumstances as our hypothetical scenario and proves that if we give any differences any big meaning, it'll lead to common misconceptions and stereotypes.


similarity between men and women. If men and women were as


Venus” story, there shouldn't be importance to any dissimilarity or

Throughout centuries men and women have slouched underneath the weight of gender roles. These norms are also clearly harmful. In her book “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan analyzes the idea of the feminine housewife popularized in America around the 1950s. Through anecdotes and statistics, she uncovers the truth beneath the facade that “every woman should want to be a housewife.” In the book, it is revealed that during the mid-1950s, 60 percent of female students terminated their personal education before they became “undesirable” in the marriage market. Marriage, however, didn't make these women happy, and Friedan spends chapters explaining the inner turmoil some of these picturesque housewives faced. The problem of women being nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men can't be solved by realizing that men and women are different. However, it can be helped by pushing for equality and rejecting social norms that may affect women developing depression. This should be done regardless if men and 28

women are different. Gender roles obviously don't only affect women, but focusing on gender differences will not let us


understand inequality but enforce it. Contrary to the idea that mindsets based on a patriarchal society die out within one generation, intergenerational ideals of men and women have been passed on subconsciously for years. As children become aware of their “place” in society and develop their a posteriori knowledge, it's hard to fight against the flow, and anyone who repudiates to fit into predetermined molds will nevertheless be sucked in or heavily scrutinized. Alongside this, when gender roles emerge, so do media portrayals that emphasize them. For example, Marilyn Monroe typically played the part of “dumb blonde,” and despite her being incredibly intelligent, she was labelled more of a sex symbol by Hollywood. Today, she’s still associated with her movie roles highlighting the “bimbo” stereotype. On the other side of this coin lies a different yet similar argument. Men and women are not psychologically different, nonetheless, this also shouldn't matter because if we say that they are already the same, it will create a lack of a push for gender equality. Putting so much emphasis and so much meaning on the

baseline of “we are all the same” will not do anything to solve the ongoing oppression of women. Only acknowledging the current condition will cease to make an actual change without continuous actions against gender norms. Thus differences or similarities are not important. Giving relevance to differences or similarities will not help us progress as a society and leads to negligence of personal identity. Providing meaning to the parallels also gives meaning to the differences, and in its entirety, the differences between men and women shouldn't be focused on. As proved before, concentration on dissimilarities leads to gatekeeping of jobs and opportunities. It is not logical to focus on the differences between men and women rather than focusing on gender equality as a whole. Fundamentally, the point is that regardless of similarities or differences in gender, all genders deserve to be equal and treated the same way. When we say “you're acting like a girl” or “be a man,” we mean

major gender differences, as proved by researchers such as Hyde. Gender differences are verisimilitude and amass from societal priming. Children learn gender roles as they grow up, making it empirical knowledge that appears through nurture. We shouldn't give these peculiarities or parallels attention as it fundamentally doesn't matter in pushing for gender equality. Let's not need to notice either differences or similarities and instead forge a way that is independent of these so that we can say “be yourself'' instead of “act like a role.”


stereotypes. Innately, despite some sex differences, there are no


the act as a specific schema of a girl or a man based on preconceived

broken-hearted brain Kayla Tougas

Wernicke’s Area: located in the temporal lobe, involved in the comprehension of language. When a boy showers you in love and then takes it away, you are left in cruel confusion. An arrow pierces your heart, so you hold your chest, sit silently in your white dress, and stare out the car window to the midnight gray sky for answers. You long for the night to engulf you, take away your pain, but you are left choking down his words and choking back tears. I don’t understand: I loved you, I love you, I’ll always love you. It’s a never-ending battle of 30

semantics, so you wave your white flag reluctantly––you don’t want


to understand. But comprehension slowly swallows your body, soaking your face in a wet glisten and your soul in sadness: what once was will never be again. It was a gray July. Cerebellum: coordinates movements; controls posture, balance, and fine motor movement. You lost your balance and fell for him. He fell too, but he now stood towering over you, onehand outstretched. Get up. You can’t. It’s as if your body was glued to the Earth. That’s whereyou were left, where you stay, with your body outstretched on the ground staring at the constellations. For a time, the stars were aligned, but now it was just a cluttered chaos. You close your eyes and imagine a tightrope: before you dreamt of falling, but now you fantasize of staying on the rope poised and confident. You dream of balance. Synapse: connects neurons, allows messages to be transmitted from one neuron to the next.

[Warning] There is a leak in your chest and puddle of blood at your feet. Stop pouring your heart out to him, you’re creating a shortage of that love within yourself. Stop being foolish. Hippocampus: deep in temporal lobe, forms and stores episodic memories. Amygdala: in front of hippocampus, processing center for emotions,

an unwarranted intrusion. They seep into your consciousness as the gray mist envelopes the midnight sky. You taste them on the tip of your tongue until the saccharine memories become rotten with what ifs. You know this feeling will linger.


In grief, you remember love. Memories flood your head (and eyes),


links emotions to memories.

the starry night has bars across it Maryam Majid

“Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I must still FICTION

have hope.” – Vincent van Gogh, 1888



he walls of the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum are void of colour. They are sick and lumpy — mere blank reflectors of

their inhabitants’ misery. This morning, the fragrant, sunlit France of my fancies is nowhere. Instead, a haze seems to obscure all SaintRémy-de-Provence, where the illusory comfort of my squalid, itchy sheets shatters; my dreams escape to the night held hostage by my nightmares; and I awake to be greeted by a grey day and those pale walls. The paper is unevenly textured with swelling bulges spread throughout, as though slugs are crawling underneath the plaster and causing the ever-present stench in the room of madness and tears. It is the worst sort of monotony, tedious and nauseating. I feel an arcane desire within me to escape this. It propels me, before thought, to sit up and throw away my covers to vacate the place I languished all night, upon which sorry attempt, I find the thicket of tragedy only denser all around me. For my view of the dreaded wall sharpens, and my eye catches a break in the pattern – right at the edge. The wallpaper has peeled to reveal a yellow underneath.

Not the golden of sunrays or flowers, but the putrid, unripe lemon of decay and illness. These walls are falling apart; the very world is deteriorating. My drab clothes wait for me to dress, but all the wonder and feeling I have laboured so hard to convey my whole life are gone. Everything. What was colourful and bright, those white walls have consumed, leaving me with their mocking smug uniformity. My eyes and ears seem to bleed from the way I have strained them to observe every detail of the world’s beauty. Now, their object having perished with the suddenness of the time, they are bereft and reeling. The hours my hands have spent in devotion – nay worship – of the picturesque, the divine, are countless as the stardust in the sky. They seem to stretch out before me, now, as an empty and wasted infinity. Distantly, I hear the forever interrupted by knock on old wood, then the squeak of rusty hinges being strained.

the entrance. Fully dressed, I approach the stand – the sludgy food that is plated on the tray, and beside it a chipped cup of water – and all I see are the little, white cylinders that are powdery at their edges and have left their chalky dust on the tray under them where they lay. The monk has places to be. Perhaps he asks me to drink, to swallow the pills. But I am already gone – the pain that was born from the moment I awoke, crescendos now, and I can see nothing beyond it. It is unbearable – or, at least, I cannot bear it. My head is tormented with sharp, pounding aches; my senses, in a deep stupor, are depressed. At times it is like a dull butter knife is being forcefully dragged through my mind, in a migraine that ails me for hours. At others it seizes the whole of me, like a sword, sharpened to be paper-fine, is cutting my soul, in a singular moment of agony. 2 And, always, there is the fog that remains over my senses, another way of pain. It makes the merest exertion exhausting and gives everything the appearance of black grief – like no happiness will be known to man again. I feel it is for forever. There is a window, whence – when the Sun finds my part France,


order enters and places my breakfast upon the shabby stand near


I pull the shirt over my head, so I am in darkness as a man of the

cloaked in despair and madness, and deigns to shine upon it – the misery of the room is, slightly, lightened. But my gloom – a mad, dolorous thing that wreaks havoc with its wilful and wicked ways – has veiled the splendour of this light with slashes of blackness across the blue aperture. They have the banal way of evil about them – as the walls, the furniture, the fabrics do; as does everything in this den of insanity. They rip apart any last respite I have from the agony, any lost vision for the beautiful I still possess. They are tears – pinstraight, metallic, the black of wells and holes and voids. Just as bars. The day, the next, and perhaps many others, pass away – like a forlorn life – to bring me here. To this night, before this window. I am exhausted from waking for long hours, and the pain – my pain that is for forever – accompanies me here as anywhere else. But I can see it. In this moment, the misery is just dust behind the lush curtain of outer space whispering sad dictums, unheard, and I am before the wonder and artistry that sings of abundance and livens the world. 34

The pinpricks of silver in the sky overtake its darkness with their


multitude, like someone crushed those foul tablets wholly and sprinkled the powder across the onyx blanket to bring it alive. Where they touch the heavens, the space brightens and turns blue to become a place of dreams and whimsy. I feel the deep soreness of my eyes – from constantly begging cruel, crumbling time to return to them the sight of beauty – slowly healing as the salve of long-held tears washes over them. I want to reach out, clutch this silk blanket of the heavens, so that it pools between my fingers, and drape it over these pained eyes. It appears the bars, the previous barricades to my vision, are gone – that I am beyond them. And in this place beyond the sadness, my fatigue overtakes me – gently, from my window to my bed, into sleep. It is not the sleep of restlessness and bitter cries, but the sweet respite of calm breathing, relaxed limbs, and bountiful, beautiful dreams. I picture it: where the sky is soft and velvet, full of swirls of clouds that melt into stars that flow, radiant and pulsing. It is so vivid I could brush it with my fingertips. Here, the beauty is endless and endlessly growing. I see a cypress growing from the

ground, like the fervent flames borne of a burning passion. It stands strong and towering over a hamlet which sits beneath rolling hills that change in the light of the sea of stars in the heavens like waves from oceans home to grand and glorious things. The homes in the hamlet are small, with thatched roofs and askew build, each of them a little universe of domesticity and peace. With the somnolent glow of oil lamps illuminating the dark cobblestones in irregular patterns, it all comes together as a field of scattered stars on the Earth. One moment at the edge of this splendour, I find myself awoken the next. Sitting up in the same bed as before – squalid sheets over me, lumpy walls opposing, and all – I face an entirely different world; it seems to pulse with the ghost of my dream, the ugliness everywhere banished from my vision. Instead, I feel that familiar call. The tendons in my fingers tingle with the feeling of brushes and canvas – a live 3 memory calling them to action. The world I left behind I can

The day does not pass like those before it. I crouch before the chest and stare at the bottom drawer where my palette and easel are stored. It is a simple drawer, faded and chipped from years of use with lack of care; perhaps it was rich chestnut, once, and the home of a greater artist’s tools. I pull it open to find where mine were abandoned before. They lay there – still and hauntingly elegant, the skeletons of forests, exactly as I left them – and I feel that to leave them, from now until forever, would be unthinkable. As my heart pumps the blood my lungs breathe life into, the motions come to me. It is an art once learned and never after forgotten. My fingers place themselves upon the aged wood as if fondling an old friend, with exactness, finding the old grooves of forgone time well spent there. I hold the brushes, heavy with paint of wild hues mixed from messes on my palette, and watch as the streaked white of canvas changes to full, vibrant strokes of colour at my hand. Warm yellow tones of vast sunflowers of the sky, dying stars, and melting candlesticks; the indigo of a sky with nebulous


from my paints. I must bring it to life.


sense here, in the warmth of the sunrise and the aroma of rich oil

shapes of darker and lighter blue shading the Earth beneath it; the dense, verdant green of a tree with rings in its trunk that run the length of the universe – the dream brought to life. The painting, as all the things of life and beauty that inspired it, takes its time in becoming. Forever behind it – if one pulled away the curtain of swirling stars and sky, the peaceful night air, the quiet music of the cosmos to come upon what is at times dust and at times stronger – there remains the soreness, the suffering, the torturous pain. There are odious walls, and wilted flowers, and desolate days; there is foul food, and disturbed sleep, and madness in my mind. But there is also a window that lets in sunlit days, brushes not abandoned, pain that is bearable after all. And a painting that is slowly born – one that brings repose and composure, that wars nightmares and catches dreams. The pain is as it was, always – it is nothing different. It is only that, where the starry night has bars across it, now, I can see beyond 36

them to gaze at its beauty, and bring it back to keep close, as the


pulsing, throbbing life inside me. “La tristesse durera toujours.” The sadness will last forever. – Vincent van Gogh, 1890 On a July day in 1890, where the equinox seemed yet expected, the fields of wheat in Auvers-sur-Oise were a golden sea, shimmering, such that Rumpelstiltskin would have found himself useless there. In this place, at this time, a forlorn artist could be found amid it all, trying to capture it with paint upon his easel. But he was failing. He felt the heat to be oppressive, as the feeling of boredom. It was a less familiar feeling to him than the one of excruciating pain – the passion that overtook him with madness – and he found himself less equipped to fight it. He knew passion, he knew madness – he had emerged from such trials before with his heart and eyes – but this void, that had grown and engulfed his heart to leave it as stone, he was at a loss with. The morning he had left Auberge Ravoux for this field, he had told himself things. He had packed his oils into his satchel; his

easel and canvas he had carried with him, had done this slowly and carefully, placing everything with precision so it wouldn’t move or break. He had packed his brushes and his palette. Then he had stood up and, in the early morning when the light was nowhere, had felt it was too late. Looking up, he had seen the darkness reflected in his revolver resting against a chest of drawers. The shiny, black metal had reminded him of something else that had pained him once. The gun was long, and cylindrical and solid. Like bars were. Now he stood, in Auvers-sur-Oise, wiping the colour off his hands with an old cloth and saw the black again. The cloth still in his right hand, he picked up the gun with the same. The gun was already loaded, since the morning, a small cartridge in the chamber. He looked up, at his painting, once more. It was more golden even than the wheat billowing in the wind all around him; even the sky seemed alive in the painting. But there in the centre was the darkness projected onto the scenery – ravens, pitch-black, every one

he could almost hear their rowdy crows – as though some strange, sudden noise had deafened the peace and scared them. A gunshot, perhaps. He pointed the long barrel onto his heart, and his blood seemed to run cold within him. Words came back to him from the letter he sent to his brother this morning. There are many things I should like to write you about, but I feel it is pointless. He realised those last ones he had not sent to his brother; the ink of those words was on a piece of parchment in his chest pocket right now. It occurred to him: these would be known as his last words. The thought was hilarious, ridiculous to him – they weren’t the words he had last to say. His last words weren’t the words he had last to say either. He moved the gun so that it was on his stomach. The trigger had not been used before. Ever the artist, he squeezed it gently and felt a slight resistance. Suddenly, there was pain and stars shooting across his eyes. And at that moment everything shattered into a million glittering, glass shards. They twinkled in the sunlight as they fell in


flying, or fleeing, from a point in the fields, escaping to the skies –


of them, like death. So different to the rest of it. A whole murder all

twisted paths. Their edges were finer than knifes, stronger than metal. They clinked against each other and made music as they hurtled to the earth, to destruction. The sharp edges of this beautiful canvas he had been painting on moments before, now fell upon, into his eyes and blinded him completely. There were stinging, incarnadine tears in his waterline, following the little crystals to the ground; his eyes closed, his sight lost forever. The veil of the beautiful sky – what had been his poor, lovely starry night – was now granules of sand, once more under his feet, to be washed away by a blood-red ocean, reflecting a dying, bleeding star that would engulf all of this before itself becoming destroyed. He had had this dream, seen this vision, before, when painting a night of stars. He had awoken from it then. He found the pain in his abdomen ignorable after a short while. He then thought that he should rally his strength and make his


Rainey Peng slumber dream

way back to Auberge Ravoux. But he found he could not leave. His brushes and paints strewn around it and a gun interrupting everything. He thought what affrontery it would be to leave this mess here. He picked everything up, even in his sorry state, to leave the scene as it had been before his arrival. What, precisely, would he have been affronting in disturbing a field of golden wheat? That he had given up on such things, and yet the artist in him – the lifelong training of his hands to serve beauty and the devotion of his eyes to see it. Even as his sadness marred everything so that he failed to truly appreciate it and ultimately surrendered, his allegiance to it remained undying. But such ideas did not occur to him. He merely walked out of the field, down the winding path, and away, with the billowing gold and endless sky behind him. The field did not go anywhere. It remained there, as always, for the days during which Vincent

long gone, the field was shaded by dark, heavy clouds. It was the opposite of the starry night that was enchanted and glowing; the scene was a simple sight. Sombre, in a grief that seemed perennial – as though to say, “this sadness will last forever”. But the forever of this sadness was very short. Because then clouds dissipated and the straggling stars emerged. A soft breeze accompanied the calls of the earliest birds and made trees in background dance. Everything came alive. The sun rose from the east, chasing the pinpricks of light beyond it. In this time, this place, the world was between two things – the golden of the day and the midnight of the sky, at once both and neither. The sky seemed littered with stars and awash with sunlight. It was calm and peaceful, but no less vibrant for it. It glowed with the abundance of brightness – like it wished to negate what came before and sing of beautiful things to come forever. If one were walking along the path, on the earth, they would find themselves still in darkness. But to only shift one’s gaze heavenward would reveal the starry night – marred and barred by all manner of cold fear and shadows, and racing crowds and time leaving you behind – but there in all its eloquence for those who look.


Then on a July night in 1890, where the equinox seemed very


van Gogh remained alive, but slowly less and less.


Julia Sheridan is a sophomore at Muhlenberg College studying neuroscience and chemistry. When she is not face down in a organic chemistry textbook, she is using her hands to create artwork from carbon steel, pencil, or paint! Aisea Solidum wouldn’t really call himself a writer, but at times, putting a pen to paper is one of his go-to outlets. Whether it be jotting down his feelings in a journal or inventing an entirely made-up situation, writing is a creative tool that helps him make all the things floating around in his head tangible as something that can be read time and time again. For him, there is just something so incredible about the power of writing and the beauty that flows from it, and that is why it is something he loves to do.


Rainey Peng is a high school junior from North Carolina. Rainey has an eye for life's charms and believes art is everywhere, viewing science as delicate dance of reason and logic. she’s part of Wild discovery animal sanctuary’s fundraising committee, and this summer Rainey joined a neuroscience lab at UNC and will continue the internship the following year. She loves stargazing, hydrangeas and singing in the shower! Kayla Tougas is a high-school senior based in Southern California. She is a long-time ASB leader, member of the Stanford Neuroscience Journal Club, and her school’s Key Club president. Kayla’s love for neuroscience was fostered through a synthesis of passions: wanting to help others and a deep curiosity of the brain. As an avid reader and writer, she hopes to communicate neuroscience ideas through her words to educate the public and to craft research papers. When Kayla’s not being a scientist or a writer, you can find her swimming, reading, editing videos, or having dance parties in her room. Raymond Liu, of the postmodern and metamodern writers, greatly admires Pynchon, Gaddis, and Foster Wallace; he hopes to follow in their wake. he currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland. Rachel Coyne is a writer and painter from Minnesota. Patricia Zhang is a grade 11 student in Toronto, Canada who loves writing, film, fashion, and philosophy. She also wishes she could add to this bio, but can't really think of anything. You can reach her @_patriciaphobic_ on Instagram.

Isaac James Richards is a poet, essayist, current graduate student, and first-year writing instructor. He has won four poetry contest awards and five essay contests—none of which are at all prestigious —and his most recent poems forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Constellations, Trampoline, and elsewhere. He has also published prose, peer-reviewed scholarship, and criticism in The Explicator, Explorations in Media Ecology, and The Journal of American Culture. He is a reader for Fourth Genre and a contributing editor at Wayfare, and can be reached via his personal website: https://www.isaacrichards.com. Maryam Majid is an emerging teen author from Great Britain who loves writing prose purple like the lavender haze in her veins. You can find her work in Teen Ink Magazine, the Expressionist Literary Magazine, the Malu Zine, the Blue Things Zine, WRITERS Magazine (forthcoming), and the Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine. She is also the Prose Editor at the Malu Zine, and active on Medium @maryammajid. She hopes to continue honing her craft and that, one day, her writing will be the comfort and inspiration to others, that so many authors' works were to her growing up. "The Starry Night Has Bars Across It" was first published in Issue II of the Expressionist Literary Magazine. Tiffany Troy is the author of Dominus (BlazeVOX [books]). She is Managing Editor at Tupelo Quarterly and Book Review Co-Editor at The Los Angeles Review.


New Latin for "the brain," The Encephalon is a youth-led journal established 2023. Our issues are developed at the intersection between neuroscience and humanities through all sorts of mediums: prose, poetry, essays, editorials, and visual art. We are here to uplift the voices of aspiring writers, artists, and scientists. The Encephalon's primary goal is to make niche fields of science and literature inclusive and convenient for a diverse audience. Through this process, we also hope to detach the intimidating stigma rooted within unfamiliar jargon and raise mental health awareness. With submissions from nearly 50 countries and a team-based approach towards multidisciplinary publication, we nest incredible work that can be found within every genre; there is a piece of writing for everyone to enjoy here.

FICTION Chad Lutz Aisea Solidum Vanessa Salazar Kayla Tougas Raymond Liu Zara Ijaz Maryam Majid Savannah Wallis Siri Nitta ESSAYS Patricia Zhang

ART Rachel Coyne Rainey Peng Julia Sheridan Raymond Liu POETRY Tiffany Troy Jonathan Ukah Solly Woo Aaminah Husnaa Devon Webb Isaac Richards Violet Sengjaroen Ash Gray Emma Atkinson Jessica Wang Meerab Fatima AAshi Patel

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.