Friday, December 1, 2023

I’ve Never Been This Age Before!

rosemary-picBy Rosemary O’Keefe

A recent “casual” reading involved learning something about our brain. This information came from Dr. Richard Restak, Georgetown University. It got me to thinking!

Everyone has heard some variation of the theory that, over the course of our lives, we actually use only a small percentage of our total brain capacity, which raises the tantalizing possibility that there might be something we can do to utilize more of it. I’m sure when most of us heard of this we wondered whether suck a profound opportunity of self-improvement is a realistic option for us.

Although medical experts agree that no one uses 100 percent of the brain, no one can state precisely what percentage of the brain we do use. Even coming up with an estimate would be an incredibly complex task.

Everyone starts out with about 100 billion nerve cells linked by thousands of connections for each nerve cell and the connections are forming and reforming all the time. The cells and linkages function as parts of many different processes, often simultaneously. So it’s really impossible to determine how much of the brain is being used for what purpose at any one time.

But the significant lesson to draw from these rough statistics is that the brain is a dynamic organ. It alters from millisecond to millisecond, yours is changing as you’re reading these words. The exciting news: It is entirely possible to use the natural dynamism of the brain intentionally to alter the way in which it is organized, and the way it makes connections.

Some experts describe the brain as the signature of one’s wishes, desires and actions. And, according to the Dhamomapada, an ancient Sanskrit text, all we are is the sum of all that we have thought. But one of the fascinating things about the brain is that, while it is certainly the mysterious entity that we call the mind- a collection of thoughts, memories and feelings- it is also a physical organ. And, like any other organ, the more you exercise it, the more it develops. This thought brings me to the wonderment of how computers alone are developing minds of all ages. However, since I don’t do computers I’ll have to depend on another new interest for brain development.

When you choose to develop certain kinds of abilities or areas of expertise, the brain is immediately altered by those choices. And by learning about and participating in different activities, you physically alter the configuration of your brain. A musician’s brain, for example, is physically organized very differently from that of a scientist. Now, we know the answer to that favorite taunt said to another, “What is going on up there in your head, anyway?” A correct reply could be, “I’m physically altering the configuration of my brain.”

Being a teacher I have always believed that if a person knows the answer they will surely tell or act on it. That is why I believe in students helping other students in the classroom. Some teachers feel it makes a student lazy and dependent on others, I feel we all learn mostly from others. If I were in a new job I would expect to be taught by other employees working there, not to try and figure it out on my own. The most frustrating time in attempting to learn something difficult or make a quick decision for me is the feeling that comes immediately to my brain of hopelessness and helplessness. It seems to paralyze me in thought and body actions. If I knew for sure I was going to be rescued I feel I could skip the paralyzing that comes over me.

I’ve seen children and grown ups in class experiencing this same emotion and my heart goes out to them. It’s painful when one feels their mind has gone blank. We’ve all been there, let’s not let anyone experience this emotion if we observe it. Some of the greatest words ever spoken are, “Would you like for me to help you?” I know the comfort of these words, recently, they were said to me as I walked out of the IGA store to find ice on the parking lot. I know my brain was surely firing milliseconds to  milliseconds at that moment. One of the uncertain feelings many of us who are older seem to develop is the fear of falling. This young lady with her keen sense of observation indeed did help a brain wave or two. Next week we’ll learn about age, ability and the brain.

More later. Receive by giving.