In our urgency to hold on to the changeless, we used to think, for example, that the brain had x number of cells and new cells were never created. Now we know that the brain, like any other part of our body, also generates new cells. So change and development is a critical part of who we are! And throughout this post, my use of the phrase, developing human being, applies to ALL of us no matter how old we are. So at age 75, I continue to be a developing human being. I am not the same person today that I was yesterday!
And speaking of the brain, I’d like to share with you a little bit about what I know of how our brain develops and works. It is absolutely interesting and fascinating and does not require us to be or become rocket scientists to grasp.
It is amazing, for example, that our amygdala is fully-developed and functioning at age seven months in the womb! Whoa! We have two amygdala, one on the left side of the brain and one on the right side. It is here that we give emotional meaning or significance to each and every life experience.
So let’s back up and take a look at an overall view of how our brain works in general. We take in information through our sensory organs. So, our ears, eyes, nose, taste, and skin. Did I leave anything out? That information, taken in by these sensory organs, goes directly to our thalamus which is a small pea-shaped part of the limbic system or inner brain. The thalamus literally decides what information to send forward to our cerebrum, and, in particular, the prefrontal lobe, where we begin THINKING about the information or the experience, if you will. But before the information can get to our thinking brain, the information gets leaked, so speak, to the amygdala. The amygdala processes the information emotionally and sends an immediate message to our muscles. Our muscles then move us either toward or away from the experience. It is similar in some ways to the flight-fight reflex, but NOT the same.
The limbic system (emotional brain) and the cerebrum (thinking brain) then begin to “dialogue” about our experience, and, at some point, we make a decision about how we are going to respond behaviorally to the particular situation.
This neurological dialogue does not become fully functional or fully developed till we are about seven or eight years old when the corpus collosum matures. It is a strip, so to speak, that runs down the middle of the brain and allows the left and right hemispheres to dialogue back and forth. But the emotional processing of our experiences is fully functional at age seven months in the womb.
Our brain, in general, continues to develop throughout our life time. Major changes occur during adolescence. And even at age 26, the parietal lobe matures, so to speak, so we finally develop the neurological capacity to see life from a “big picture” perspective. That is why the cost of automobile insurance traditionally decreases after age 26!
So the point of all my ramblings is that we are ALL developing human beings no matter what age we are, and we can actually track our development. BUT, is there an age when we can say, “okay, I am no longer a developing human being?” And if so, what age might that be?
Recently, many governments have either ruled or suggested that people over a certain age should or must shelter in place. Ouch! Such a move would literally destroy me economically. The move suggests that I can no longer defend myself against disease, even though, I haven’t had the flue in over ten years (WITHOUT a flu shot), and I am very picky about my diet, and I walk 6 miles four times a week at a fifteen minute per mile pace. I think I can decide for myself how to insure that I protect myself against viruses and diseases. My immune system continues to grow and develop and protect me, even if it is not as functional as it used to be when I was younger, BUT how do we know that and how do we measure that? As far as I know, my immune system is producing sufficient T-helper cells, but maybe it’s not!
I have almost no visceral awareness of my age. I can walk farther and faster than most of you who are younger than I am. The one area of my life that lets me know that I am older is my eyesight. My eyesight, not my vision! Others may see me as “old” but I don’t experience myself as old. I am good to go for.... Well, I use to aim to live to be a hundred. Now, I live for today and to live today with all the gusto I can create for myself.
I love to laugh and I laugh a lot. And I love to cry and I cry a lot. Did you know that chemically, there are nine different kinds of tears? The tears we produce when we are happy are different from the tears we produce when we are sad or angry! They contain different kinds of hormones which help us deal with our anger or our grief or excitement or joy. The tears that are generated when our eyes are irritated have no such hormones. Those tears contain only lubricants. So the notion that only babies cry is extremely unhelpful and counter to the way we are created! So cry your eyes out!
Here’s something that is a tad unsettling for me to think about. At what age is it completely acceptable for one developing human being to decide that another developing human being should no longer exist? Who gets that privilege? Yes, privlege.
So at what point will folks, like myself, over an arbitrary age, be considered a burden to society? And at what point will we be required to take a pill and never again be a burden to anyone? Don’t just scoff at the question, especially if you’re “young.” Think about it!
As much as we think we live in a democracy, our country is still based upon an hierarchical system in which certain folks are believed to have privilege over other certain folks. With privilege comes power.
We often disguise this privilege by referring to it as our rights, and we like to think that we have God-given rights to take other people’s lives, other people who are developing human beings just like ourselves. But it’s not a right but a privilege which comes from our belief that we are ABOVE those people whose lives we feel free to take.
In the last four hundred or more years in this country, it has been an on-going privilege for so-called white people to take the lives of so-called non-white people whenever they chose to do so! The so-called slaves’ lives were expendable. And then there are the Indigenous people with an equally cruel history of "treatment" from so-called white people. Some indigenous people were systematically removed from their land and then murdered ruthlessly. The Chinese immigrants who were brought here to build the railroad are another shameful example! And I am sure you each have your own stories of so-called non-white family members being persecuted, enslaved, and or killed. Japanese Americans during World War II are another sad and lamentable example.
The systematic mistreatment and even killing of anyone who falls into the category of non-white continues to this day. And don’t think for even a moment that there is a political party who is, in fact, doing anything about it. Look beneath the surface.
Yes, look beneath the surface. Let’s ask this question. What does any legislation do to promote the economic independence and success of so-called non-white citizens? I dare you to make a list of so-called non-white millionaires and billionaires in this country and another list of so-called white millionaires and billionaires. Why hasn’t either major political party done something to address this discrepancy? I’m not talking about welfare legislation or even affirmative action. I am inviting us to look way beyond that to a more generalized mindset and climate.
And lastly, the government has convinced us that it is our right to determine when to end the life of any developing human being yet to be born. It is not a right! There is no such thing. But it is a privilege, the same way that so-called white people saw it as a privilege to end the lives of any so-called non-white persons they chose. It’s not about right, but about privilege that comes with power that we choose to assert over anyone we deem beneath us and anyone we deem does not have a voice!
This issue of ending the life of a developing human being yet to be born is NOT a political or economic or even a health issue. This privilege that some hold so dearly is even beyond morals or ethics.
Thinking and convincing ourselves that it is our privilege to take the life of another developing human being and even at times finding justification in Scripture no less, goes to the very foundation of who we are and who we are not. And we don’t like to look at who we are and who we are not.
The kind of thinking that makes it okay to take the life of another human being is driven by fear. And by the way, fear and love are totally incompatible as we have so clearly seen demonstrated during the corona virus crisis. We have bought into leaving our parents and even our children to face illnesses and even death alone in fear of what? Ask yourself, in fear of what? This same fear keeps us from confronting our California leaders’ complete and total double standards during the last eight months. They require us to follow certain mandates which they see fit not to follow for themselves.
What we are most afraid of obviously is death. That is a huge topic. AND we are ALL going to die sooner or later or later or sooner. I am at peace with my death, and it does not dictate my day- to-day decisions. Maybe all of us can get there and pass that on to our children so we are no longer vulnerable to being lead down paths that are ultimately not good for our children or our families.
And if we are going to play the science card, then we better know something about science. One thing for sure, science is not an exact science but heavily based on probabilities. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But do your own research. Understand, for example, the statistical phenomenon that two-thirds of the population gets better no matter what treatment they receive. Ask yourself where science has been over the last how many years that we have dished out opioids like candy?
I have a lot more to share, but I also have other endeavors that are callling to me. So I hope I have given us all something to think about. Something to think about and contemplate! Finally, I would recommend we all read Isabelle Wilkerson’s recent work entitled Caste.
THANK YOU FOR READING.
Oh, I almost forgot. A final thought-filled question. The child in the picture at the top of this post. At what age do you think her mother has the privilege to terminate her life?