BY SID ARTHUR
As one eats, and eats more, and makes a habit of eating larger meals, even over a short period of time the stomach grows larger. It stretches beyond its former parameters, and the lucky consumer of delectable edibles is then able to contain quite large meals along with sumptuous desserts. Conversely, starve the stomach and it recedes to a lesser capacity. It shrinks.
The one who exerts physically discovers a similar result in a brief time. Not only do the muscles grow (especially if exercised in tandem with the above eating habits), they develop greater force, greater potential, and that potential can be released and experienced by lifting weights, performing chin-ups or push-ups, or while using something along the lines of Christie Brinkley’s total gym, the one advertised on TV (if only Christie were along for the ride). With each round of exertion, muscle capacity grows. Remaining idle for a period of time, the opposite occurs—the muscles atrophy.
And so it is with the mind.
Feed the mind, and it grows. Enrich the mind, and it develops new luxuriant capacities, and rather quickly, in a matter of weeks. And like a hungry stomach, or muscles calling for a work out, the mental faculty craves more knowledge, not unlike a race horse craving a good hard run after days of rest.
Watching television, for the most part a passive experience, in which the thinking is done for us, the experience is less than challenging, although there are exceptions. And, of course, if commercials are involved, it is an experience, even if challenging, that is quickly stymied, the neural pathways stopped in their tracks, rerouted elsewhere, as a pitch for some product begins, and as the train of thought initially embarked upon is abandoned, if one of any merit had left the station, that is (think Kardashion choo choo, to the rhythm of Kim’s sauntering pelvic structure).
Reading, and more so, writing, is another matter, that involves all sorts of mental lifting—light, intermediate, and heavy.
Arithmetic, doing math, is another cerebral exercise that develops sinews of the mind. Working with figures enables alacrity of practical thought and problem solving that serves human beings well, by which one looks at logistical or even logical situations and sees with a greater clarity the pathway to resolution or completion. If you want something done, they say, give it to a busy man, one who exercises the muscle of accomplishment. That is also true of the mind, for an intelligent person is simply one who uses his wits consistently with determination and depth.
Ever owned a business, or worked a job that requires basic math—addition, subtraction, percentages, multiplication? Ever bought and sold goods with a mark up, traded stocks, worked as a bookie, or played the odds on sports games? You get good with numbers quickly, proving that the mind is a terrible thing to waste, like a race horse that ought to run, not be left idle in the stable, magnificent beast that it is.
Decoding grammar, diagraming sentences, learning foreign languages, conducting science experiments and writing lab reports, or learning chemistry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus, these things develop the mind, putting it through its paces, even as children whine about having to endure the rigors of such disciplines (yet public school being so easy, it’s hard to imagine that that even happens any more, dumbed down as we have become), and it is so much simpler now with calculators, right on your phone—though admittedly most of us never knew how to use a slide rule (what was that for?).
One thing to keep “in mind,” and here’s where we leap into another realm, is that the mind is not simply a product of the brain, in the same way that a computer is not capable of understanding. Yes, the brain is involved with the mind, but look each word up in a dictionary and you will find that they mean quite different things, and that the mind transcends the physical brain, not that the brain isn’t an incredibly complex, efficient, and magical organ of the human body. A definition of the mind: the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought, reads quite differently than a definition of the brain: an organ of soft nervous tissue contained in the skull of vertebrates, functioning as the coordinating center of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity.
One is physical, the other formless.
The key difference is the faculty of consciousness, one that perplexes material sciences wedded to the tenet of neo-Darwinian evolution exclusively by means of natural selection and random genetic mutations. How, after all, could capacities such as performing calculus, reading literature, writing literature, or contemplating the wonder of art, nature, and the universe, arise from some process of natural selection through accidental mutations, in the way that, say, giraffe gradually developed longer necks, or finches longer beaks, in that animals with such traits were more likely to thrive and reproduce over time? In purely materialist terms the physical brain would not have become capable of conceptualizing and understanding the arcane rotations of the heavens, dimensions of the planet, musical scales (much less symphonies), long division, the telemetry of rockets to the moon, space travel—or, perhaps the most perplexingly human faculty of all, the ability to get or tell a good joke—humor.
Reading, too, and as importantly all the things we consider and learn while reading, as evidence of the mind’s abilities, can hardly be explained as absolutely physical processes, all chemicals and neurons.
In other words, no genetic accident produced these capacities in some hapless fellow, long long ago, enabling him to survive the dog-eat-dog environment of prehistory and then somehow produce offspring with similar genes. He didn’t need calculus, Beethoven, or John Lennon’s A Day in the Life to survive. Nothing happened then that enables you, at this moment, to understand, contemplate, and run with the ideas you are now taking in. Such conscious capacities simply aren’t necessary for physical survival (although it could be argued they are indispensable to the survival of the soul). It is therefore problematic to see them as having arisen from natural selection, and this means that immaterial mind, in its origin and function, is not beholden to the physical brain, but to a deeper and even more mysterious source.
One might consider, given the mind’s capacities and flexibility, that the brain enjoys a power by which it is able, like a radio, to attune to frequencies of a pre existing field of intelligence, mind itself, unconditioned in the Buddhist sense, that assumes various qualities, given the human mind’s vicissitudes varying from joy to madness and all the gradations in between.
Magnificent creature that it is then, the human mind might be trained and groomed like a temperamental thoroughbred, lest it adopt bad habits and run some errant course—and, if a radio, tune its reception, avoiding deleterious frequencies while amplifying those that are beneficial, so that the instrument might pick up the Platonic realms—Splendor, Beauty, Truth, Inspiration—and by exercising the mind in such a way embrace greater parameters on one’s way to transcendental Infinity, the endless frontier, the surface of which has been barely scratched by conventional science, certainly not material science, with the notable exception of subatomic physics, the equations of which show the purely materialist paradigm as inadequate.
Editor’s note: Sid’s trippin’. And if you got this far, you are too.