September 22, 2011


Every day science reveals more about the workings of the human brain. We now accept the idea that the mind functions like a computer. But while machines work from a series of 1s and 0s, the mind’s inputs read “well-being” and “ill-being.” (“The Political Mind” by George Lakoff, pg. 94) The permanent imprint of either event is created, Lakoff writes, when “two different kinds of experiences regularly occur together and activate two different brain areas simultaneously over a series of experiences.” 

According to Lakoff, our understanding of morality and the words we use to describe that understanding stems from these two inputs. For example, a person is better off if he stands rather than crawls. The metaphor for goodness, therefore, is to be upstanding while the metaphor for evil is described as low or underhanded. People function better in the light than the dark. Therefore being good is associated with the light while being bad is associated with the dark. One is better off eating wholesome food therefore, good is purity, and bad is rottenness. (pg. 98)

(Yahoo Images)

Our view of the world comes from understanding what is good or bad for us, so we turn out to be pretty mechanical creatures except for one miraculous fact: science shows we program the capacity for empathy, not just selfish self-interest. When we know what makes us happy or sad, we know what makes others happy or sad. Compassion, ironically, is a by-product of recognizing what we need to survive. Yet that “accidental” empathy is the means by which we become open to all living things and to the universe itself. What a miraculous outcome from a simple matrix.

Albert Einstein, who made a good stab at understanding the universe, said it best:

        ” Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”