When I started this blogpage with the idea that mental health and Christianity were essentially the same thing, I did so hoping to share what little expertise I may have acquired from these last 40-50 years. I’d hoped to apply my graduate degrees and professional credentials in some useful way while in my retirement years. Having taken a crack at understanding people and understanding God as best my education and practice could afford me, I hoped that I might have an answer or two to the questions folks often raise in response to common life events or even crises. If all those years of hearing the same questions repeated countless times really mattered, there may be a chance I might still help someone else along life’s way.
Not to say my hope was unreasonable, but most folks reacting to crises of different sorts in life have their own answers for their own questions. They’re not so often shopping for anything more than an affirmation to the answers they already have given themselves. The human mind, after all, spends relatively little time being indecisive. We react quite quickly in deciding things, it seems, and we seem most ill content with our own unanswered questions. We make up our minds and our answers rather quickly when it comes right down to it. Even if we get the answers wrong in that process.
Which brings up a different question altogether.
What if we took a bit more time in answering our own questions in life? What if we gathered more information before reaching our problem-solving decisions? What if we explored more options and weighed more consequences before making our choices? What if we did something my wife is good at but I’m loathe to do inside the store: shop around some more before buying? What if we tried a bit harder, a bit longer, to get it right before hitting the check-out lane?
The human brain knows how to do this. It just doesn’t come all that easily to us. At the base of our brain we gather our senses from within the body of what is happening in the world. Toward the back of the brain are the stored memories of when such things have happened before and what we decided to do about it then. We feel as if something is wrong, we remember what we have done about it before, and we repeat that solution. We repeat, repeat again, and then repeat some more. And we get to be pretty good creatures of habit this way.
Think I’m kidding? Then think again about how you have personally reacted to the news from Orlando yesterday. Tell me if it’s not been for you the same old same old.
Fortunately, there’s more to our human brains than all this. We do have a frontal lobe capacity to reason and to develop new understandings, process new information, create new solutions and new answers and make new decisions. It’s just that this process takes longer. It requires shopping around instead of just heading for the check-out lane. It means doing more shopping instead of just buying the first thing we like.
Aaaargh! I’m a guy. I hate to shop. I just want to buy it and get out of here.
So here’s what is going on inside my own mind as I process events like the most recent mass shooting yesterday a.m. This time it happened in Orlando, Florida, where the world comes to play…….and has done so ever since Mickey Mouse first came to the area. And at the base of my brain I gather the news with feelings of horror, first for the victims, then their families, then the larger community of Orlando including its first responders in police and fire departments. And the hospitals, doctors, etc. now attending the wounded. And then on to our nation. To our voters in this fall’s elections. To our government. By which time all of my memory function has pounced on the questions and problems that the same answers and solutions as always. Support more progressive candidates for office. Fix the laws. Stop the NRA. Pray. Beg God to do something immediately, if not sooner!!!
If only that default answer in my memory bank actually worked.
So far in my own mind it’s only nonsense. But this time my mind refuses to head for the check-out with my hand-cart full of nonsense. Nonsense answers to nonsense questions. Insane decisions about insane choices. I can do better. We can all do better. We’ve heard from our bodies. Now it’s time to consult our souls. We know how our bodies fear. Now let’s slow down, explore and discover how our souls love. Let’s learn from our souls how to love God and neighbor as self, how to love even the unlovable, and how to finally………….finally………cast out fear. Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow down. Keep on shopping. It’s not time to check out yet.
If I can do this, so can you. So can we all. We all have a soul. And God is waiting to consult with each one of us through the Holy Spirit dwelling within our souls. That’s right. Each one of us has direct access. We can wait upon the Lord. We can gather new information through a power higher than our own bodies, our own ears, eyes, senses. We can all get this help. Which is why it’s called common sense. Spiritual sense.
You see, our first reaction to nonsense is more nonsense. Only if we wait, slow down, seek the divine…….not with our physical senses or from the back of our mind, but from that part of the brain God has given us with which to reason new solutions, understand new answers, even ask new questions. Not our first reaction, but rather our second response. Our God-given responsibility. Our common sense in answer to life’s all too frequent nonsense.
Common sense vs. nonsense.