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God Help Our Minds (9.14.2023)

Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and one of the former Republican presidential candidates said, “I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins, the only one to operate on babies while they’re still in their mother’s womb. The only one to take out half of a brain, although you would think if you go to Washington that someone had beat me to it.”  That statement made me think about the power of the mind.  What he said was both comical and thought provoking.

            Maybe you have heard this one too, “You don’t have a brain in your head!”  But you know it’s simply not true.  If a person is alive and functioning, you can be sure they have a brain in their head whether they are using it or not to its highest potential.  And what an organ it is—an amazingly complex electrical-chemical marvel, weighing only about three pounds, but containing billions of cells that are capable of performing an incredibly enormous workload—generating, receiving, recording, and transmitting energy.  Scientists have estimated that after 70 years of activity, a brain may contain nearly 15 trillion separate pieces of information.  Thousands upon thousands of thoughts can pass through it every day but the brain never gets tired.  It is a magnificent thinking machine with a marvelous capacity.

            Our problem is that most of us never use the brain to its full potential.  Most of us seldom use more than 10 percent of the brain’s capacity.  And that is unfortunate, because the more we use our brains, the more effective they become.  Many people testify that the more material they memorize, the easier it is for them to memorize.  And obviously, the more we use the brain, the more information it stores.  The brain is a veritable treasure house of memories more vast than we can ever imagine.  My wife used to say she could remember things in her mind from when she was 3 years old.  My son who will be 26 in a few weeks says he remembers being 5.  Something must be wrong with me because I can barely remember 12, but it definitely shows how the mind is a treasure chest of memories both good and bad.

            But man is more than a machine, and the part of him we call the mind goes beyond that lump of gray protein with the consistency of soft cheese located under the skull.  Philosophers have quibbled for centuries over the nature of the mind.  Most everyone would agree that the functions of the mind do depend to a large degree on the memory storehouse of the brain, and that the thinking processes of the mind are obviously centered in the brain, but the concept of mind does seem to reach in a broader sense to something beyond those processes.  It somehow relates to the entire immaterial part of man’s being.  While the term mind is sometimes used to refer merely to our intellectual faculties, it is likewise used to refer to that whole complex of elements in us that feels, perceives, thinks, wills and reasons.  The mind is the control center of our being where the basic direction of our lives is established.  What goes on there determines what we are and what we shall become.  The information received there, the experiences encountered there, and the conditioning that takes place there all effect the decisions we make and the course of action we take.  Three thousand years ago Solomon wrote, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Prov. 23:7).  The things that go on in our minds are the raw materials from which our entire lives are molded.  I hate some of the things that I have been through, and you could not pay me to go through them again, but the lessons I learned when I went through them are priceless and have helped to make me who I am.

            When General Dwight Eisenhower was the American Commander in Chief in Europe in World War II, someone asked him what the result would have been if the Allies’ invasion of Italy had been repulsed from the beaches.  “It would have been very bad,” he answered, “But I never allow my mind to think in that way.”

            General Eisenhower realized that a man’s way of thinking has a profound impact on his life.  The way you think determines the way you live.  If you want to change the way you want to live, you must first change the way you think.  Because the thoughts of the heart play such an important role in shaping outward behavior, we all have a duty to control our thoughts and keep them purposeful.  We have a duty to ourselves, our family, our community, and our God.  After making this decision and praying to God to sustain it, the individual will be able to give a higher meaning to Eisenhower’s words: “I never allow my mind to think that way.”

            In classrooms across the country, teachers have launched an urgent effort to make young people think rather than just memorize masses of facts.  Many educators say nurturing of the ability to reason has been neglected in the campaign to teach basic subjects in recent years, and a catch-up is necessary to provide young people with the proper tools to prosper in an increasingly complex society.

            With the recent 22nd Anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, it is my prayer that God helps us as a community to learn how to make good decisions whether than just have bad reactions.  I think a lot of the violence that our nation has suffered is because of bad decisions and quick reactions. Over the last few years, we have seen the shootings in Dayton, OH; the shooting at the Tree of Life Temple in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA; the shootings in Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, and more recently the shooting at the Dollar General in Jacksonville, FL.  Even if it did not happen on our street, it should concern us all.  I am still convinced that we are still only a few good decisions away from a better community and just a few bad reactions from total destruction.  God help our minds.