At my fifty year high school reunion, I remember seeing Mickey, my dear friend from 50 years ago walking up the bleacher stairs on the opposite side of the gym. Mickey had gained sixty pounds and I had lost my hair. And yet we recognized each other…instantaneously! That is AMAZING! How could I pick Mickey out, 50 years later, from hundreds of people across a gym?
Our brain’s Indescribable capacity to grow!
If I were to put a paint brush in front of you, you would instantly recognize it. However, you were not born knowing what a paint brush looked like. You learned it sometime between your birth and the present. Let’s look at one isolated illustration to understand how your brain learned this.
Rohnert Park, where our daughters grew up, is anything but a city. In fact, starting off, they knew absolutely nothing about a city.
When hen they were very young, I began reading books to them about cities. Their brains then recorded these books as “neural clusters,” which are little clusters of neurons stored in the pre-frontal cortex of their brains.
When they watched Sesame Street, their brains laid down additional clusters. In addition, we also took them to San Francisco and San Jose where they saw a lot of people, and buildings, and street lights and fire stations…all the stuff the cities have. All of these images were also recorded as clusters in their brains
However, in the beginning, these clusters were just that… clusters floating around in their brains, with no real meaning to them.
So now their brains did something very interesting:
Their brains looked for similarities among the clusters, and when their brains perceived these similarities, they connected thm together. In other words, when it saw similarities between pictures of buildings in the book, and buildings in San Francisco, it physically connected the clusters associated with these buildings. When it remembered a fire department on Sesame Street and a fire department in San Francisco, it created another set of connections. And on and on.
Over time, these neural connections formed a “pattern” of a “city,” and this pattern of a city is now in their long term memory, and will be there as long as they live! In fact, neuro-mathematicians from UCSD have stated that the number of patterns which the human brain can potentially may be as great as one hundred billion to the power of 10,000. (That’s one hundred billion, times one hundred billion, ten thousand times.).
So What Can We Learn From This
That Nothing in Your Life is Wasted
As we have seen here, your brain is a magnificent pattern-detecting apparatus. The time it takes for this pattern detection to take place is directly related to how many images, clues, pictures, readings, trips, tables, figures, books, papers, presentations, slides, magazines, and all of the other materials you have been exposed to throughout your life.
What does this mean to us? It means that nothing is wasted, even when you were (or are) out of work, or that divorce…events in your life that may seem meaningless to you, or even tragic! The more images, clues, and experiences you have, the more you will learn and grow.