A few weeks ago our paper ran an OpEd by Dr. Ken Bartholomew urging us to exercise our brain.

It was a timely piece, given the state of society these days. Dr. Bartholomew’s message reaffirmed what we know about how physical exercise and challenging our brain with new information, puzzles, math, learning new things can add to the quality and longevity of our brain and our lives.

The human brain is the consummate enigma. Its intricacies and mysteries will never be fully solved. I think I like that. Not everything should be solved, even if we constantly wonder why and how people think and behave in certain ways. We’ll never fully understand our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, strangers or, more importantly, ourselves.

Maybe that’s how it was intended. If we understood everything about how the brain worked, then new inventions, experiences, feelings, discoveries would be meaningless. We’d all be the same, no individuality. How boring it would be if everyone thought the same, liked the same food, colors, games, scenery, seasons. There would be no hidden sites to explore or new things to learn and experience. Art and music would lack the depth and passion that capture our imagination and sing to our souls.

It feels we are taking our brains for granted. We listen to people who validate our hopes and thoughts rather than listening to and seeing the value of other views. Media personalities, politicians, and all the collateral industries that feed on our vulnerabilities are smiling all the way to the bank as they purposely and, in some cases, with malice of forethought, play to those vulnerabilities to relieve us of the responsibility of using our brains to challenge, question and expand our horizons of thought. Admittedly, it’s hard work to keep our brains engaged. There are times I just want to stop thinking and empty my mind of what feels like clutter. Critical thinking – another lost item from school curriculum – takes time and also the willingness to find out we’ve been incorrect about things. Finding out we’re wrong is hard.

Humans are weird about being wrong. For some reason we’re hard-wired to think it’s a failing or weakness to be wrong. We rarely think of it as part of learning and getting stronger and better at what we know and what we do. If we could find a sort of peace with stumbling, we might find life a little easier, and be a little more open and compassionate to the circumstances of others.

Our experience isn’t the only experience in the universe, no matter how much we think we should be at the center. Too many others are vying for that position. Once we accept that fact, things usually go a little more smoothly. Once we quit falling victim to the current gimmick that facts and truth are fungible, our brains will suddenly clear.

Our brains are wondrous things. We can think for ourselves, we can have opinions and ideas that seem incongruent. We don’t have to let our brains atrophy because it’s easier than the work necessary to keep sharp, engaged, and continually eager to learn.

Brain power. Keep it growing.

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