Pingelap is a small circular island in the Pacific, an atoll, forming part of the country of Micronesia. A portion of its residents live with a most intriguing and peculiar neurological condition: they are born without cone receptors, those microscopic photoreceptors in your eyes that enable you to see color—a condition called achromatopsia. Their vision is analogous to a black and white television screen: darker colors are seen as dark grey while lighter colors are seen as light grey. The circumstances of this condition extend beyond color: cones are responsible for seeing in daylight, but at night they are ineffective and hand the job over to the rods. Without cones to see in the daytime, the light sensitive rods take over, so squinting and wearing heavy dark sunglasses are a regular consequence for the people of.
There is a world hidden from the eyes of the people of Pingelap—one that, perhaps, even their imaginations cannot fully comprehend: for no memory of color has ever hued their thoughts, no shade of tint has ever dyed their imagination. Are we any different? The universe is all there is, and every species living in it experiences only a portion of it. The world we experience is one written by our senses, and our senses reveal only a portion of it. We remain ignorant of things hidden beyond our sensory experience. The German biologist Jakob von Uexküll called the partial world in which a species lives the umwelt. Continue Reading…
Our eyes are the windows to the soul—or so the saying goes. They are the gatekeepers of the mind; the doorways of the heart; and the sentries upon the towers. Poetic as these phrases may be, reality is not too far behind. In a very real neuroanatomical sense, to look into someone’s eyes is to gaze upon the throne room of the mind—their brain. While we are yet inside our mother’s womb, the developing human brain differentiates into three portions: the hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain. As the forebrain grows into what will eventually become the cortex, it sprouts two unique vesicles. These vesicles extend and grow like the stalks of a plant, cupping themselves into the familiar ocular form. These optic cups are the premature inklings of what will become the retina; which is where light come to once it enters the eye. Unlike the rest of our sense organs, our retinas are a unique extension of our brains. Continue Reading…
A shot was fired a few miles from my home, February of 2012. That gunshot, which resulted in the death of a young African American, marked the beginning of a disquieting conversation over race. For a while however, people argued over a different question—would the young man still be alive if he wasn’t wearing a hoodie? One controversial comment was made by Geraldo Rivera: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was” (Fung, 2012). The comment quickly found opposition: “I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie… because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white” (Skolnik, 2012). How important are our clothes?
Regardless of your stance on the controversy, clothes can be symbols of discrimination. A hijab, a hoodie, even a Make America Great Again hat, can all influence our perceptions of a person long before we’ve met them. It makes us categorize people into boxes, and expect certain behaviors from them. Studies have found that our perception of a student’s intelligence is influenced by the student’s style of dress (Behling & Williams, 1991); they’ve found that women which dress masculine are more likely to be hired (Forsythe, 1990). Truly, “a person’s character is judged by his style of dress” (White, Education, 1903, p. 248).
Besides the sociopolitical aspects of clothing, psychologists are interested in a different question—how they affect our minds. Clothes carry information, those cultural stigmas and social symbolisms with which they are associated. When an artifact of clothing is worn, it influences the wearer’s behavior and cognition, making them likely to “embody” those associative attributes (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). For example, researchers found that wearing white makes people see themselves as more moral than when they wore black (Uebayashi, Tao’oka, Ishii, & Murata, 2016).
What comes to mind when you think of a lab coat? Most likely a doctor or scientist—professions which require intellect, focus, and attentiveness. In one study, participants were divided into two groups; both were given lab coats, but one group was told the coats belonged to medical doctors, and the other was told they belonged to painters. Both groups then performed a visual search task, which involves finding small differences in two otherwise identical images. Interestingly, results showed that those told they were wearing a doctor’s coat were significantly better at spotting the differences than those who weren’t.
The psychology of how dress affects behavior is termed Enclothed Cognition. How interesting that we see this same embodiment in our spiritual lives. Our current apparel consists of filthy garments, and to no surprise so does our behavior and character (Isaiah 64:6). But like the doctor’s coat, which imparts its influence upon the wearer, we are offered a heavenly coat made of fine linen, clean and white (Revelation 19:8); a robe which when worn, also imparts its attributes on the wearer: “the white robe of character, which is the righteousness of Christ” (White, 1952, p. 518). As Christians, we can take off our filthy rags and be clothed with the coat of our Heavenly Doctor. When we decide to do so, we will be influenced to behave accordingly, reflecting Christ’s character.
“For He has clothed me with garments of Salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His Righteousness.”
- Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 918-925.
- Behling, D. U., & Williams, E. A. (1991). Influence of dress on perception of intelligence and expectations of scholatic achievement. Clothing & Textiles Research Journal, 1-7.
- Forsythe, S. M. (1990). Effect of applicant’s clothing on interviewer’s decision to hire. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1579-1595.
- Fung, K. (2012, March 23). Geraldo Rivera: Trayvon Martin’s ‘Hoodie Is As Much Responsible For [His] Death As George Zimmerman’. Retrieved from The Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/geraldo-rivera-trayvon-martin-hoodie_n_1375080.html
- Skolnik, M. (2012, March 19). White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin! Retrieved from Global Grind: https://globalgrind.cassiuslife.com/1807268/michael-skolnik-trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-race-sanford-florida-photos-pictures/
- Uebayashi, K., Tao’oka, Y., Ishii, K., & Murata, K. (2016). The effet of black or white clothing on self-perception of morality. Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 130-138.
- White, E. G. (1903). Education. Mountain View: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
- White, E. G. (1952). The Adventist Home. Hagerstown: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
There is a small issue with looking at the stars; and that is that they may not exist. We equate them with the beauty of a girl’s eyes, or with the heights of intellect that humans may achieve, but seldom consider that they are nothing more than a distant photograph of a time long past. Light takes time to travel and when we account for the distance of some of these stars and compare them to their average lifespan, it is easy to understand that we may be looking at a sky full of memories.
This may be a saddening idea to contemplate, that those stars which so beautifully remind us of who we are, may no longer exist. Yet it is also an idea which brings us closer to the past. The SH2-106 nebula for example is about 2,000 Light Years away (NASA, 2011). This means that the youthful light emitted by this nebula when a man named Jesus walked the Earth, is just now reaching us today. In other words, when we look at this celestial object, we are looking at the exact time when our Lord walked among us. How poetic it is that this nebula has the form of an angel; that like the angels of old that once gave glad tidings to the lowly shepherds, this angel of light now preaches the same message to Earth from the heavens.
One study by Watkins and colleagues (2016) found that narcissism (extreme selfishness), cynicism (the belief that others are motivated by self-interest), and materialism (valuing material possessions over social and even spiritual possessions) inhibit your sense of gratitude. Like water and oil they do not mix. Can you identify what things are inhibiting you from being grateful?
Awe—three letters that define the feeling of reverence as it intermingles with fear and wonder. In the simplicity of those letters is captured the emotion felt by all who witnessed the eclipse this August. It is difficult not to have been overtaken by the event: Joy and fear mixed into a single voice as the thousands of people around me began to howl and cheer at the sight of a blackened sun. A decidedly secular event marked by the smell of food and gasoline quickly transformed into a sacred and spiritual experience for everyone in attendance. CONTINUE READING…
There is beauty in words. A sentence well written—a phrase that captures a thought and holds it for a moment—these are the moments for which readers search. But the nature of a sentence is a strange thing. Words by themselves are not bound by any ethics; they are empty vessels in which nothing but a single unit of information is contained. Claiming that the words “fruit” and “tree” are true or false is meaningless. However, the moment words are grouped together into a sentence, they gain a truth value. That is to say, a sentence has the emergent property of “truthfulness” not found in the individual nouns and verbs that compose it. Take, for example, the sentence “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” It makes a claim about the state of both the fruit and the tree, which can be verified by reality. CONTINUE READING…
Every story must begin somewhere. And this one begins on the seaside. Nature loves to hold on to mysteries, as if to disclose them meant she’ll lose a part of herself. For a long time, it was a mystery how turtle hatchlings found the sea. Perhaps the gentle sound of waves was calling out to them, saying “come, this is the way home.” But there is a stronger explanation. Not the call of the sea, but light from the moon glistening upon the horizon (Rivas, Tomillo, Uribeondo, & Marco, 2015). These turtles follow the moonlight as it reflects over the ocean. They keep their eyes on its glow, as they make their way towards the freedom that the ocean brings. CONTINUE READING…
Reference- (Rivas, et al., 2015)
Awe—three letters that define the feeling of reverence as it intermingles with fear and wonder. In the simplicity of those three letters is captured the complex feeling experienced by all those who saw this eclipse. I never knew how close the sun looked before today. As near and big as the moon on a clear night. As palpable as a low hanging fruit, just barely out of reach.
An ominous sound began to overtake the atmosphere, like the sound of rushing water, as the thousands of people around me began to cheer and wail in awe and excitement. Joy and fear mixed into a single voice which made the hairs on your neck stand as it spoke. A secular event marked by the smell BBQ and gasoline, quickly became a spiritual and sacred experience for everyone.
It is difficult not to be overtaken and pulled by the event. Its as if our brains are prone to spirituality. In the face of overwhelming grandeur and mystery our psychology inclines towards worship and reverence.
How interesting that scripture tells us not to be pulled in by it, as if knowing the weakness of our minds in the presence of natural majesty:
“Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:10, ESV).
Can we teach animals to speak? Indeed, from bees to primates, animals have sophisticated methods of communicating (von Frisch, 1973). But can we teach them OUR language? All attempts have mostly failed whether that language be spoken, signed, or makes use of lexigrams. Animals seem only able to communicate in the present tense, oblivious of anything outside the here-and-now. They are further constrained to a limited number of topics. Memorizing words to get rewards rather than to express new thoughts. If communication is ever possible, it must be in their terms not ours (Kako, 1997).
How then shall God communicate with man? For as high as the Heavens are above the earth, so are His thoughts above our thoughts. How shall He describe a world which our eyes have never seen, our ears never heard, nor entered into our imagination? Sometimes the best way to reach a group of people, is to send others who belong to that group of people; and the best way to teach them what they cannot understand, is to compare it to the things they can. For this reason we cannot take the humanity out of the Bible, nor would we want to. To reach people through people, through prophets and apostles, teachers and evangelists. This is God’s method. To speak the words of God through the words of men.
Consider Washoe, a chimp raised as a child in an attempt to teach her sign language. Yet as difficult as it was to teach her a handful of words, it was her adopted son, Loulis, who better learned and acquired the sign language by learning it from Washoe. Being taught by his own kind, by his own mother, he began to learn and acquire our language (Fouts, 1989).
Similarly, Christ not only stands as the Mediator between God and man, but as the Translator. We can only understand God through Him. The intangible divinity made manifest in the tangible humanity. In the simplicity of Earthly metaphors, Christ makes known Heavenly truths. He explains how the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, a net cast into the ocean, or a pearl of great price. He communicates to us by our terms and limits; and we learn and acquire the language of God through the humanity of Christ, our own kind. (John 1:14, NKJV).