Live and Learn – Lessons from a summer in Seattle


Hard to believe the summer is already coming to an end.  Through the joys, and the confusions therein I know that I am leaving Seattle a different person. For this last blog I will attempt to summarize all the lessons I’ve gained into a short string of words. So please bear with me.

 “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”(Einstein). One of the most profound ideas I’ve gathered this summer is that the brain is actually designed to forget (Pelley). Strange, isn’t it? What happened to the normal brain’s apparent incapability to forget childhood memories or various faces and so forth? Well, do you remember what you ate for lunch on June 27? Or the person you sat next to on the third-to-last flight you took? Probably not. However, you might remember what you ate on your first date, or the person who uplifted your spirits with an encouraging word on that initially depressing flight.

 The brain is the most highly efficient operating system there is, and arguably, ever will be. Thus, as you would expect from an efficient machine, it is the information of significance that survives. Only the information that has been involved in shaping who you are or determining who you will be endures the intense selectivity that occurs during sleep. So how does the brain distinguish between memories that are worth keeping and those that need a one-way ticket to the recycling bin? Two words: Decisions and Emotions (Pelley).

 The brain keeps the information used to make a decision because it probably assumes that there will be a similar decision to be made later on. Memories attached to emotions are also safely tucked away because the brain perceives that they must have been very important to cause such a strong reaction.

 I say all this to reiterate the ironic fact that the brain is actually designed to forget.

 Now say I find myself holding a chalk in front of a black board and I only plan on scribbling 5 smiley faces circumventing a “Have a nice day.” There would be no need for me to do any consolidative erasing because I already know the limit of the coming information.  However, say I find myself in front of the same black board with the intention of taking notes for a discussion of which the “quitting time” is unknown to me. That eraser will now find itself as a sniper, stealthily eliminating a barrage of useless information in order to distill and concentrate that which will allow me to achieve my objective.

 In the situation where I was taking notes for the discussion, I have to constantly choose what will remain on the board and what must be removed. Why?  Simply because of the fact that I’m expecting more information and I don’t know when the stream will end. This is the same wiring pattern our brains take. We’re designed to learn. The moment we stop doing so is the moment we turn a supercomputer into a doorstop.

 After years of providing some of the greatest insights, this is the conclusion Einstein comes to. “The important thing is not to stop questioning,“ he says. Not the questioning that leads to skepticism, but the kind that eradicates fables to establish truth. After this summer, with chalkboard and eraser in hand, I’ve chosen to “never lose a holy curiosity.”

 I don’t have much room to develop the second lesson I’ve learnt, but I suppose it doesn’t need much room. The concept is one that seems to have been fully understood by most other than myself. My lesson can be summarized in the words of Robert Gerus, “Live, laugh, love for tomorrow is another day.” While in Seattle, just about every Saturday has been spent at church, then shortly after, my friend’s house. There was never an idle Sabbath lunch; the sweet aroma from the delectable culinary feats would caress my nostrils while the ambient sound of laughter livens the dining room. Such scenes could become a scarcity in the life of a diligent student.

 It’s fairly easy to lull a determined science major into the false ideology that your life must now consist of diving into classes and books, and the occasional gasps of fresh air gained from bouts of community services.  As important as these activities may be (in fact they are the reason for us being at school) I want to argue that there is another idea more eternal in its essentiality – the concept of relationships.

 Jesus knew this. In fact the Pharisees often condemned Him because He spent so much of His time establishing these relationships. Watch  Him as He mingles during the wedding at Cana, or crack a joke or two while eating at Zacchaeus’ house. Relationship is one of the main driving factors for our groans for heaven (Rom 8:22). For it is the idea of being with God and with friends and family that really magnetizes our longings.

 Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

We’re told to rejoice in the day that the Lord has made (Psalms 118:24). In other words, take the time to smile and laugh because God has given you another chance to learn how to live.

We’re also commanded to love. Sure, a heart that chooses to love may, in essence, be making itself vulnerable to bitter anguish. However choosing not to love that you may escape the reality of anguish, is like choosing not to eat to avoid getting hungry later on.  Because laughter and love are so essential in the act of living we can place these two dynamics into a treasure chest called “Live”.

 So what I have learnt this summer can be summed in these three words – Live and Learn.


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