14. Remember

Imagine being a prisoners of the present moment. A moment which never progresses and never moves on.  Memory, above all other mental faculties holds the throne and the scepter over our lives. Who we are and who we might become, and especially what we can do, rests on the brains ability to learn and remember.

However, memory has its limits. In the 1950’s psychologist George Miller conducted tests on working memory, and postulated the famous “7 ± 2” theory. This number signifies that on average our working memory can hold about 7 units of information, before it becomes saturated (Miller, 1956).

Now consider the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and how it is coupled with the verb “Remember.” Perhaps if the command consisted of remembering every 37th multiple of every 9th full Moon, we would have some legitimate reason for forgetting. But instead the command states every 7th day. This lies at the central point of what our brains, on average, are designed to handle. In addition, the repetition of the weekly cycle ensures consolidation of the command into long-term memory, since repetition is shown to increase synaptic connections in the Hippocampus (Kendall, 1981).

The Seventh-Day Sabbath is designed to be remembered. So don’t go out of your way to forget. (Exodus 20:8).

~John Bryan

Recommendation – In Search of Memory by Eric Kendall

Reference: (Miller, 1956) (Kendall, 1981).
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13. Time

What will I regret at my last hour? If nothing else, perhaps not having lived more slowly. Life feels like an unwanted fall, hastened by the passing of each day, like 9.8m/s². Moments do not last long enough for me to savor them, and remembering them once they’re gone doesn’t bring half the pleasure.

Music helps. The reverb of a single key, solitary and subduing; the sound of strings like voices arising and descending. Sounds can turn ordinary moments into milestones for me; they calm my hurried life to its proper pace. The pace at which infants and babes which breathing the first rays of light seem to live.

But music doesn’t last. Too much of it dulls my senses, and I long for silence. Reading during the silence also slows my restless mind. The pleasure of a sentence well written; a word which captures a thought and holds it for a moment. Those are the pauses that I long for. But I find reading to be tiresome. I cannot get lost in it as some people can. The excitement with which I first open a book, is not the same with which I put it down.

Then there is traveling. Which doesn’t seem to slow down time for me, but it does allow an escape from it. Standing before monuments which once seemed impossible for me to see with my own eyes, makes me forget that my clock is still ticking. Gazing at that mountain range in the distance, or that river running without care; seeing snow fall slowly for the first time, makes seconds fall at a similar pace. But traveling too quickly comes to an end; and life speeds up again.

And I’m left with the same question. How does one slow life down, Redeeming the Time? (Ephesians 5:16.)

~John Bryan

♦ 9.8m/s² refers to the accelerations of gravity, doubling in speed at the passing of each second.

12. Hands

A relationship between two people has a distinct signature. It is the sound of two instruments echoing the same song—harmonizing like the octaves on a piano. Defensiveness, Indifference, Criticism, and above all Contempt: these four notes unlike any other create dissonance within a melody, (Gladwell, 2007).

Contempt is the feeling that you are beneath consideration; below someone’s standard. It is expressed through tone of voice, body language, spoken words, even movement of the eyes. It is also the greatest predictor that a relationship will fail (Gottman, 1998). Research conducted on couple interactions found that contempt, even at its earliest and most minimal stages, had a high correlation with divorce and broken relationships.

Love must be without hypocrisy. (Romans, 12:9).

~John Bryan

Further Study: What Makes Love Last by John Gottman

Reference: (Gladwell, 2007) (Gottman, 1998)

11. Eyes

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The eye reveals our designed dependency on others. They, above all other faculties, declare us a social species. No other species of primate has a noticeable sclera allowing for the detection of a glance. And the ones that do, seem to be oblivious to it, following the movements of the head rather than the eyes. Even infants before developing language follow the direction of a person’s eye (Senju, 2008). Chimpanzees and other animals cannot, instead they only follow head movement.

“If I am advertising the direction of my eyes, I must be in a social environment full of others who are not inclined to take advantage of this to my detriment—by beating me to food or escaping danger before me. Instead, I must be in a cooperative environment where others following the direction of my eyes somehow benefit me” (Tomasello, 2007).

Our eyes do not naturally hide or deceive, as many species of animal find it necessary to do, for the sake of competition and surprise. If we note that the Heavenly command is to love other’s as ourselves, then it makes sense that our eyes are not antagonistic to this end. Instead they show we are fundamentally dependent on one another. Love works no ill towards others. Love is the fulfilling of the Law, and our eyes are witnesses to it. (Romans 13:10).

~John Bryan

Recommendation: The Brain by David Eagleman

10. Turtles

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 in the horizon (Rivas, et al., 2015). These turtles follow the moonlight as it reflects over the ocean. They keep their eyes on the light, and run straight to it to reach the freedom that the ocean brings.

Seldom is victory gained with little cost, and us as humans have added another costly obstacle in their already rough path. Light pollution from nearby cars, streets, and buildings have begun to disorient these hatchlings (Howell, 2013). Their gaze once steadfast, has now been compromised by the multitude of brighter, and more attractive lights. Not only do these lights lead away from the safety of the ocean, they lead them towards the dangers of streets and sewers.

We are not so different. In our Christian Pilgrimage, we hear the Voice of God speak, “Do you see yonder shining light? Keep that light in your eye, and go directly to it” (Bunyan, 1965). There are a multitude of lights, attractive and distracting, that will divert our gaze. Yet the Light of Christ is soft and steady, and anyone willing to keep their eyes on it, will find the shores of salvation. (Isaiah 45:22).

~John Bryan

Recommendations: Planet Earth II

Reference- (Rivas, et al., 2015) (Howell, 2013) (Bunyan, 1965)

9. Heartbreak

 

Heartbreak—had I been born anything but human, perhaps I would not have felt it. But we don’t get to choose what we’re born, any more than we get to choose who loves us. And when those we wish would love us don’t—love hurts. Yet, it is not love itself which hurts, but the lack thereof.

We know we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves; I am led to believe that this is of greater importance than love for God. Because to love Him whom you have not seen, while you passively neglect those whom you have, is an unprofitable contradiction (1 John 4:20). Your love of religion, your faith, your hope, all collapse before you when you show indifference. All your eloquence and scriptures become dead noise, profiting you nothing. How can your God be with you when you are not where He is? I have seen Him with the lonely and rejected. With those who eat by themselves. With those who are forced to walk alone. With those whom you did not associate with.

Our brains respond to heartbreak, the way it responds to physiological pain (Kraft, 2011). Too many cry alone for us as followers of God to do nothing about. We are fundamentally dependent upon one another for our cognitive, emotional, and physiological development (Harlow, 1958). Our words and actions, our neglect or compassions, all mutually influence the well-being of others, which in turn influence our own.

As Christians we should enjoy taking the love of God to those who are destitute of it, knowing that in so doing we bring them life. We are social beings, and loneliness can affect everything from heart disease to blood pressure, to how long you live (Resnick, 2017). I propose that the loving embrace of a friend, is nothing short of life itself. And the sweet embrace of God’s love, nothing short of life eternal.

We are a broken people, and they will know us by our love. (John 13:35).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendation: I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

Reference: (Harlow, 1958) (Kraft, 2011) (Resnick, 2017)

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8. Garments

Does what you wear matter? The psychology of how dress affects behavior is termed Enclothed Cognition. It isn’t coincidence that makes people who dress the same to act the same; or perhaps you yourself have noticed that when you dress better, you feel better, and you do better.

Research conducted on subjects made to wear lab coats showed improved attentiveness on tests, particularly when made to believe they wore a doctor’s coat as opposed to a painter’s coat (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). Had the test measured creativity, perhaps the results would have been reversed.

“For He has clothed me with garments of Salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His Righteousness.” -Isaiah.61.10.

As Christians, you know you have been clothed with heavenly garments. Remember that, and act accordingly.

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations – Christ and His Righteousness by E.J. Wagonner

Reference: (Adam & Galinsky, 2012)

7. Deception

Deception. Very few words carry such a wealth of negative emotions. But what sort of things are deceptive?

The first televised presidential election occurred in 1960 between Nixon and Kennedy. The day after the debate the Chicago Daily News ran the headline, “Was Nixon Sabotaged by TV Makeup Artists?” A number of things occurred during the debate that has since shaped our notion of a public image. Two in particular were body language, and presentation. Firstly, Kennedy was bronzed and aided by the use of makeup, while Nixon was pale and began to sweat under the lights. Secondly, Kennedy made eye-contact with the camera while Nixon tended not to do so, giving the impression of lying (History.com staff, 2010).

Can judgements be manipulated by impressions? In the aftermath of the debate an interesting division began to emerge. Voters who saw the televised debate believed Kennedy was superior, but voters who listened to the debate on radio felt Nixon was the winner. It is written, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30). This is called the Halo Effect. We tend to like everything about a person, or nothing at all. This means little bits of information about one aspect spill over into other unrelated categories. A person you consider to be polite, may also be considered to be more charitable by you. Even though politeness does not imply charitability. Or in this case, a candidate’s body language and demeanor is unrelated to their political knowledge and leadership (Kahneman, 2011).

A similar situation occurred in Scripture, when Samuel went by God’s command to find a successor to King Saul. Arriving at the house of Jesse, Samuel began to examine his sons. Upon looking at the eldest son Eliab he said, “Surely, the Lords anointed is before Him.” Notice the disconnect. Samuel saw, and concluded he was fit to run the kingdom. But the Lord said, “Do not consider his appearance, for I have rejected him.” From elections, to the people who walk in our church, what you see with your eyes is deceptive. The verse continues, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations: Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Reference: (Kahneman, 2011) (History.com Staff, 2010)

6. Empathy

Some people are the world to us, and others hardly matter at all. Strangers do not compel us to compassion, but rather to caution, fear, and exclusion. But Christ teaches us that our moral obligations extend beyond those whom we know and trust. He teaches us that the mere presence of a stranger, makes him a neighbor, and thus worthy of love. (Bloom, 2013)

The system of mirror neurons stands at the forefront of empathy. It makes us feel what others feel. It is a basic level of connection, of humanity. Take a simple emotion: disgust. When shown videos of people smelling a foul odor, participants watching the facial expression on a screen showed activation in the anterior insula. Observing an emotion in others activates the neuronal representation of that emotion in us (Wicker, 2003). Our own brains connect the gap between us and a stranger.

~John Bryan

Book Recommendation: Against Empathy by Paul Bloom

Reference: (Bloom, 2013)  (Wicker, 2003)