Monday, July 2, 2012

Brain Food

What we learn, study and mentally absorb is not unlike the food we eat. As adults, we generally know its limitations and that certain knowledge and foods are useless (i.e. birthday cake and celebrity gossip) and some are good and nourishing. We can consciously choose the food we eat as adults, but not necessarily as infants and children, which is dictated by our parents and school lunch menus. In the current food era of industrialized food, this has led to a prevalence of childhood obesity with the finger pointed at parents’ lack of responsibility in promoting healthy diets and exercise. By this stage, children could be so classically conditioned to consume highly satiable foods that obesity continues through adulthood and never reverses itself unless extreme measures are taken to defy what they’ve learned tastes good and satisfies hunger. The same applies for a dogmatic approach to education, which I believe is much more controllable than one’s diet, but rather than chastising the narrow minded path to religious education, we laud it as if it goes in hand with teaching morality and alleviating suffering, when in fact it is the culprit of ongoing bigotry and violent crime.

Regarding the necessity of food, what we ideally strive for is optimal health and weight. The vices of satiety and indulgence coupled with the abundant availability of food in developed nations leads to overconsumption and diseases we’ve only had to deal with in the past few hundred years, however. Regarding education, what we strive for is truth through evidence, reason and rationality, but the vice of ignorance amidst the abundance of knowledge and opinions usually leads us toward the path of settling with the information that’s popular, biased and readily available. That’s why nationalism is so strong and religion (and cuisine for that matter) is geographically isolated to particular countries. Humans are very adaptable creatures so you have to acknowledge the fact that what teachings you were born into and inherited over thousands of years may not be correct.

The issue with this mode of learning is it ingrains a very rigid form of dogmatic teaching that an ultimate authority who we dub as God is watching over you like Big Brother, watching your moves and preventing full reign of your thoughts, such as lust, which is worthy of thought-crime. (i.e. you can’t think freely without consequences) Some never step back out of this conundrum to see the sources of the dogmatic teachings. Where did religion originate, why is God revered as Yahweh in the Old Testament when polytheism dominated, how many people were killed to spread God’s word, why was religion created in countries 2,000 years ago when civilizations were suffering through famine and disease for 98,000 years? Why did God wait to intervene with Jesus after watching humans suffer for 98,000 years?

Holding onto such thoughts with a vice grip causes some of the greatest tools at our disposal, reason and free thought, to gelatinize as we follow creeds blindly like lost sheep. This is provides an unfair advantage to children, when their curiosities are in full swing, by implanting the idea to fear death early on and that the world is merely 2,000 years old. Whilst science is constantly unveiling new, sustainable evidence for evolution, a wall is erected, preventing young people from weighing scientific evidence against dogmatic religion and drawing their own conclusions.

We’re constantly mired in uncertainty and knowledge because we can’t foresee the future and know everything, which is ultimately the challenge of existence: selectively learning what we value and making informed choices for our survival, knowing we are all mortal and susceptible to death. What religion does is stifle the beauty of uncertainty by telling us the future is full of happiness and praise after death as consolation for having to blindly praise a God. Frankly, that sounds like a fairy tale to me. The wealth of emotions and uncertainty we experience is what makes our lives interesting and produces texts / art /movies which rock our core but just like that, upon death, God promises a split in emotions as if parting the Red Sea where followers are forever inhumanely jubilant like an artificial environment while others gnash teeth and suffer. The idea of absolute certainty for the everlasting future is not something that sounds appealing as it goes against everything we value. It goes against the principle of reason, rationality and searching for truth by telling us to believe something without a prerequisite of thinking.