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 param-eters, 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 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 were there at all.
Reading, and more so, writing, is another matter, that involves all sorts of mental lifting—light, intermediate, and heavy.
Arithmetic, doing math, is another cranial 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 brain consistently with determination and depth.
Ever owned a business, or worked a job that requires basic math—addition, subtraction, percentages and multiplication? Ever bought and sold goods with a mark up, traded stocks, worked as a bookee, 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 langu-ages, conducting science experiments and writing lab reports, or learning chemistry, algebra, trigonometry or 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 it is so much simpler now with calculators—though admittedly most of us never knew how to use a slide rule.
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 understanding does not result from a computer. 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.
The key difference is the faculty of consciousness, and it is one that stymies dogmatic proponents of the material sciences wedded to the precept 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, 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 humming birds longer beaks, in that animals with such traits were more likely to thrive and reproduce over time. We cannot see, though, how the physical brain became capable of conceptualizing and understanding things such as the arcane rotations of the heavens, the dimensions of the planet, the musical scales (much less symphonies), long division, the telemetry of rockets to the moon—or, perhaps the most perplexing faculty of all, the ability to get 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 evolutionary adaptations resulting from natural selection. It’s just nonsensical to think so. 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 produce offspring with similar genes. Such exalted capacities simply aren’t necessary for survival, and therefore couldn’t have arisen through natural selection, and this means that immaterial mind, in its origin, is not exclusively beholden to the physical brain.
One might more logically presume, given the mind’s mysterious capacities, that the brain enjoys an ability by which it is able, like a radio, to attune to frequencies of a pre existing field of intelligence, one that assumes various qualities, given the mind’s vicissitudes varying from joy to madness and the many gradations in between.
Magnificent beast that it is then, the mind ought to be trained and groomed like a temperamental thoroughbred, lest it adopt bad habits and run some errant course—and, if a radio, hone its reception, avoiding that which transmits negative frequencies, especially if they share a congruency with unguarded mental states that invite amplification. Conversely, the great steed of consciousness might gallop toward the realms of Platonic splendor—Beauty, Truth, Inspiration—and by exercising the mind in such fields embrace greater parameters on one’s way to infinity, as it were, the never ending frontier, the surface of which we would have to assume has barely been scratched by conventional thinking.
Editor’s note: Sid’s trippin’.