Exercise Your Brain to Make it Stronger
Babies drink milk. They love the stuff. Babies love milk like adults love a cheeseburger. We’re talking a juicy double on a toasted bun with twin slabs of golden American goodness oozing down the sides. If offered a bite of a cheeseburger, even a truly great cheeseburger, an infant wouldn’t know what to do with it. If that baby could talk, it would almost certainly respond to the offer in the vein of George McFly when addressing his beloved greasy spoon barkeep: “Lou, give me a milk. <dramatic pause> Chocolate.”
All nonsense aside, not long after its undignified jolt into this radiant and noisy world, that baby is going to need something considerably more substantial than milk if it is to grow to drive cars and balance checkbooks and masterfully grill other-worldly beef craft.
Hebrews 5:13-14 says it this way: Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
What it’s saying is that there will come a day where every munchkin will need to hit their own yellow brick road, and that with growing up will come the responsibility to learn and use each newfound tool to progress ever-closer to the Emerald City.
After weening, that little bundle of smells will survive almost exclusively on solid food-referring now to the human munchkin, not the munchkin munchkin. It is true that there are some humans who will still choose to drink milk into adulthood, usually having forlorn the milk of their mother in favor of that of a cud-chewing, meadow-wandering bovine, but given this fact’s corrosiveness to the analogy at hand, it will be ignored accordingly.
Knowledge and Wisdom
The figurative solid food in this lovingly crafted wordscape is knowledge and wisdom. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked; knowledge is knowing that there are more fake flamingos on this planet than there are real ones or that Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn. Wisdom is knowing the difference between religion and relationship or knowing not to let schooling get in the way of a good education. Of course, wisdom is knowing that one ought never to look straight up at a bird.
An Idiot’s Guide to Being a Fool
The book of Proverbs paints a vivid picture of the fool as one who hates knowledge (Proverbs 1:22), and it also compares wisdom, insight, and understanding to the likes of silver and hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:2-3).
This means that every person that doesn’t want Mr. T’s pity should be in constant pursuit of worthwhile learning as though it were a big, steaming pile of Facebook likes and retweets. We should pursue wisdom like it’s post-season sportsball or a cell signal in a backwoods horror flick. Our desire for learning should be as as strong as a Wookie’s desire to win at Dejarik; you’ve got to be prepared to tear some arms out of sockets to get it.
I read quite a lot and have a list of favorite books as long as your arm; I don’t say this to brag, I say it to attest that learning new things is the single easiest, cheapest, fastest way to improve a life..and to brag. You can’t expect a quality output if you don’t find some quality input. I consider any day that I don’t learn something new a wasted day, and I’m happy to say that, while I’ve wasted time here and there, I haven’t wasted a day in years.
“Daily sharpening the saw” is habit #7 of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a book I would strongly recommend to anyone with aspirations beyond the life of a Kardashian. The name of the seventh habit comes from the idea of frustrating and sweating over a blunt saw blade, when just taking a little time to sharpen in the saw would bring that metaphorical tree down smoother, faster, and easier.
What about Youtube?
Even Youtube can be used as a learning tool, and an entertaining one at that, but it can also be a never-ending, labyrinthian rabbit-hole into epic depths of mediocrity. Dig a little and be selective; if you can look beyond the frivolous junk merely competing for your attention, you’ll find your way to the good stuff.
Here are a few of the Youtube gems that I’ve unearthed:
- For Social Issues: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
- For Politics: Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers
- For History: Crash Course World History
- For Philosophy: Crash Course Philosophy
- For Current Events: vlogbrothers
- For Science: Vsauce
- For Physics: Minute Physics
Alzheimer’s and Type 3 Diabetes
With a steady drip of new information, a human brain will literally begin to rewire itself and increase its neuroplasticity. If you’ve ever had to witness the horror of Alzheimer’s, there is mounting evidence that exercising your brain through new experiences, reading books, and even just doing puzzles can stave off this horrible disease. Alzheimer’s, or what is being called “type 3 diabetes,” is a disease where poor diet and low brain exercise cause the brain to degenerate, leaving holes in the cortex and personality alike.
This brings us to a segment I like to call, “A Grossly Unscientific Oversimplification…of Science!”
Think of your brain as an internet in your head. Consider each thing you learn as a computer that knows a lot about one thing.
One computer remembers an address: P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. One immortalizes the time you were stick-fighting with your younger brother that landed him in the hospital with an inch long splinter in his hand (he’s got a computer for that one too). One meticulously sorts and resorts theories on where Disney is going to take us in the next Star Wars movie, and one simply stores the binary sequence for how cookies smell.
One computer might store all the data about the time you were viciously hit by a pitch and cried in front of the whole little league team, but the data would have to be limited to the emotional facets that a seven-year-old mind would see as most important, wouldn’t they? Pow! Now your adult brain has an irrational fear of baseball and sports at large.
Now imagine that neuroplasticity is like the wifi that helps each computer communicate with its buddies. If I ever had the inkling to put myself in a situation to be hit by a pitch again, I would probably be amazed at how easily my adult self could shake it off. Neuroplasticity is what would allow my brain to connect the two experiences and conquer my now-irrational fear of rogue pitches. Still, don’t put me in, coach.
My beloved Oma (German for ‘grandmother’) calls it “connecting the dots.” Connecting the dots is when we learn some new, tasty bit of knowledge that we are able to apply to other, seemingly unrelated areas of our life. Reading a book on forgiveness or philosophy or even ancient history can have a powerful way of changing the way we see the world. Some call them “aha moments,” and they’re all thanks to neuroplasticity.
Unfortunately, our brains are susceptible to the “use it or lose it” philosophy. It’s really too bad that the figurative cheeseburgers of knowledge, insight, and maturity aren’t automatically served to us the way they were in our school years. After graduation, when that conga line of conveyor-fed meat pucks dries up, it seems like most people just quit feeding their minds.
Now, as the gelatin of the importance of continued education is beginning to set, I will leave you with some learning resources that I have found to be profitable, and some simple advice: to keep your mind sharp and your brain strong, and to never stop feeding yourself!