“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
I remember reading the above quote amongst an ocean of other text somewhere in the last few years, but unlike the rest of the words, this sentence has stayed with me ever since.
Every time I have thought of it, and every time I have seen something new in the world this quote rings in my mind.
When I was younger, I used to race with my younger brother and pick up elastic bands on the way to school. These bands were left occasionally on the road by the odd disgruntled postman hastily unwrapping his letters for the morning many hours prior.
Although not an unusual sight, my brother and I saw these simple elastic bands like Hernan Cortes saw Aztec Gold, or more realistically, like chickens saw chicken feed (seeing as we ran to pick them up as fast as we could).
We carried these throughout the day with us, writing on them, flicking them, (read: shooting each other in the face with them) and stretching the bands so that the words appeared mystic and distorted, like some sort of ancient 5 year old’s writing.
One thing that was obvious to 7 year old me however, was that after some stretching of these bands beyond their comfortable limit, they became out of shape. It didn’t seem like anything significant to me but after reading the above quote I understand how the vastly complex, seemingly endless mind can be similar to a piece of manufactured brown rubber.
As children, when we grow older we start to learn more about the world. When we are toddlers, we learn that our toys aren’t counted as one, another one, another one after that. We learn to count, we learn about the different colours. We learn that people fly in the sky inside huge airplanes, we learn that police catch criminals and that trains move under the city like snakes. We may even learn that the sky which we cannot even see past, is not the limit!
And at each stage our curiosity intensifies, our minds stretch further. From that point on, our minds are not limited to planes and toys. We still engage with them – yes, but we become aware that there is a life other than them. There exist things far greater, and our lives form a new dimension of understanding to them. Our minds have stretched at this new information, and they will never remain the same again.
What a shame it would be to let this rapid mind and soul growth be confined to the early years of our childhoods. Its easy to be a consumer of all the mud slung out in the media today. Reality TV can drag you in, game shows and mind numbing video games can easily keep us in a bubble which itself is hard to see out of. How many people do you see who can name every member of a celebrity’s family, but have never taken the time to research climate change? How many people can tell you every feature of the new iPhone, but know nothing of the asteroids passing by us?
This isn’t bashing the average person for being ‘average’, it’s calling out average for being … average.
We cannot sculpt fine and minute details into our mind and soul with the blunt force of a hammer. Attempting to do so would only turn the marble into unrecognisable fragments. Elemental ‘mush’ if you will. It is only the precise chisels and incisions into the marble which produce the great works of art.
Similarly we must nurture and cultivate our minds and ensure we protect our minds from becoming mush from the consume culture we find ourselves surrounded by in the modern world. We must define every edge on our mental statue with knowledge and inquisitiveness.
It is essential that we keep stretching our minds by way of learning and experiencing things that we have not come across before. So next time you see that inconspicuous looking rubber band lying on your desk, don’t forget the link between it and your very own consciousness.